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Narrative, Nature, and the Natural Law
Previous Books by C. Fred Alford
AFTER THE HOLOCAUST: The Book of Job, Primo Levi, and the Path to Afﬂiction PSYCHOLOGY AND THE NATURAL LAW OF REPARATION RETHINKING FREEDOM: Why Freedom Has Lost Its Meaning and What Can Be Done to Save It LEVINAS, THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL AND PSYCHOANALYSIS WHISTLEBLOWERS: Broken Lives and Organizational Power THINK NO EVIL: Korean Values in the Age of Globalization WHAT EVIL MEANS TO US THE MAN WHO COULDN’T LIE: Essays and Stories about an Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry GROUP PSYCHOLOGY AND POLITICAL THEORY THE PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY OF GREEK TRAGEDY THE SELF IN SOCIAL THEORY: A Psychoanalytic Account of Its Construction in Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rawls, and Rousseau MELANIE KLEIN AND CRITICAL SOCIAL THEORY: An Account of Politics, Art, and Reason Based on Her Psychoanalytic Theory NARCISSISM: Socrates, the Frankfurt School, and Psychoanalytic Theory SCIENCE AND THE REVENGE OF NATURE: Marcuse and Habermas ASHES OF THE MOON: Environment and Evil in the Amazon (a novel)
Narrative. Fred Alford . Nature. and the Natural Law From Aquinas to International Human Rights C.
nature. Europe and other countries.NARRATIVE .112—dc22 2009035089 Design by Integra Software Services First edition: May 2010 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America. Hampshire RG21 6XS. this is by Palgrave Macmillan. First published in 2010 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the United States – a division of St. NATURE . and the natural law: from Aquinas to international human rights / C. Fred Alford. K460. 2. Where this book is distributed in the UK. Basingstoke. paper) 1. New York. Natural law—History. of Houndmills. Fred. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States. Natural law. Fred Alford. . a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. the United Kingdom. ISBN 978–0–230–62279–1 (alk. Europe and the rest of the world. Narrative. I. Martin’s Press LLC. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Title. NY 10010. AND THE NATURAL Copyright © C. registered in England. 175 Fifth Avenue. ISBN: 978–0–230–62279–1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Alford. company number 785998. p. cm. 2010 LAW All rights reserved.A44 2010 340 . C.
C o n t e n ts Preface 1 Introduction 2 Saint Thomas: Putting Nature into Natural Law 3 Maritain and the Love for the Natural Law 4 The New Natural Law and Evolutionary Natural Law 5 International Human Rights. and Locke 6 Conclusion: Evil and the Limits of the Natural Law Notes References Index vii 1 21 49 83 107 135 149 159 169 . Natural Law.
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though that is becoming a rare legacy.” Untraditional is the way my approach uses narrative theory to put feelings into words. In any case. is particularly helpful in this regard. but can’t quite ﬁgure out what. and when it is just talk. I have kept the question of the reader in mind. For too long now. not just a term of suspicion and contempt. For natural law to add something to our discussions. isn’t it? Yes and no. and words into feelings. Evolutionary natural law. particularly in groups. including human nature. the reader who wants to do something with the natural law. I am more interested in explaining natural law and its relevance today to those who might imagine that the natural law has something interesting to say. Better yet is a ﬁrm foundation in the liberal arts. rather than argument. . What can one do with the natural law? One can make sense of the proper relationship between morality and public life. I have sought to bring a fairly traditional interpretation of the natural law to some rather untraditional problems and areas. at least since Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). rather than argue about this or that detail. Of course. The term “traditional interpretation” refers not to the religious or ideological perspective of the book. would be my ideal reader. One can explain a good deal of otherwise puzzling human behavior. or political theory. I kept asking myself? Not. The reader will require some background in philosophy. I think. The result is that stories.Preface Beginning with Saint Thomas Aquinas and ending with the latest developments in international human rights. must be a meaningful category. for the usual audience of the academic monograph: fellow professionals interested in the technical details of the subject. but rather to the view that natural law is “written on the heart. become the basic unit of the natural law. the topic of chapter 4. it’s all just talk. More than any other book of mine. nature. One can begin to understand when talk about international human rights has some basis in natural law. Who am I writing for. I do not claim that this is the only way to do natural law. I do claim that it is a fruitful way. theology.
In some ways it is the easiest thing in the world because it is indeed natural. and to protect. liberty. Parts of chapters 2 and 3.” In other words. economics. having to do with the status of realism in Thomas. on Saint Thomas and Jacques Maritain. in good measure. and security of person. Locke is valuable because he helps keep us modest. however. but only in the stories we tell about it. Understanding the natural law does not have to be made difﬁcult. natural law is absolute. a Protestant theologian whose insight into the natural law is coupled with a corresponding blindness. are the unlikely combination of Jacques Maritain and John Locke. in my book. The heroes of the natural law. so that human autonomy. But the history of the natural law raises some philosophical and historical issues that are worth understanding if we . individuals have rights not because individuals automatically have rights. Maritain because his background in phenomenology. My thesis (what I bring to the argument that I think is original) is an appreciation of the consequences of seeing human rights as natural law: a humility that lets the other be. ethics. society. My inspiration for this idea comes from Reinhold Niebuhr. Nature does not speak for itself. stories that are never free of the dominion of fear. has tried to lift ethics out of nature. that recognizes a sacred boundary between my community and another that we have a duty to respect. enables him to make the most sense of that old saying that natural law is “written on the heart. Maritain makes sense of the intuitive dimension of natural law: that we know it even before we can explain it. as he puts it. and yet it is a challenge about which we must be careful. and desire—that is. In other words. with arms if need be. and the inﬂuence of personalism. are at points fairly technical. and culture. led him to limit the natural law to the basics of what today we call international human rights. The natural law challenges this direction in ethics. on Maritain. Within this sphere. Niebuhr’s blindness stems. a duty. and freedom might coincide. coupled with his love of poetry (and perhaps his love of love). but because individuals are all subject to the same natural law. including that ethical theory known as the “new natural law” (discussed in chapter 4).” I refer to the rights of life. power. from his apparent ignorance of the contribution of Jacques Maritain to the development of the natural law. By the term “basics. not just a right. as the teaching is called. politics. Locke’s abiding concern with the “mediocrity” of men’s minds. coupled with the overwhelming tendency of humans to confuse the historical and social concerns of the day with the natural law.viii Preface ethics.
over a number of years. I described the audience I imagine as reading this book. only to silently say to themselves something like. generally because I have not put them in my own terms and language. but this is not a disagreement that will be helpful to analyze for the purposes of the argument at hand. as Thomas deﬁnes it. medieval. Do other professors ever have that awful feeling of talking or lecturing about some topic. who have forced me to understand what I was explaining to them about the natural law in classes in ancient. Maritain. In thinking about narrative and the natural law. a position similar to one held by some members of the so-called Cambridge School. For example. Nevertheless. which is not fully captured in the references. and Locke that I have declined to address. “Not only do I not understand what I am saying. But perhaps I will be surprised. I can teach something I don’t believe. a book must address an audience. Levine is currently research director of the Jonathan M. MA . my own examples from life.Preface ix are to fully appreciate the claims natural law makes about the moral world we share. I argue that the state of nature in Locke represents his vision of life under the natural law. He would not likely agree with many of my conclusions about the natural law. My thanks are reserved primarily for my students. C. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. Earlier. but a preacher. my own language. and so come to a decision about whether I believe them or not. For in the end. which is to show the continued relevance—and some surprisingly radical consequences—of a rather old-fashioned way of looking at the natural law. but have not yet made the words my own. If I couldn’t. But I ﬁnd it extraordinarily difﬁcult to teach something that I don’t understand in my own terms. I owe an intellectual debt to a former colleague. Fred Alford Yarmouth Port. there are a number of debates among scholars over this or that aspect of Thomas. It is from this effort. Peter Levine. for example. and modern political philosophy. This book began as that struggle. not just the needs of its author. even as it has come to take on something of a life of its own. graduate and undergraduate alike. Other scholars disagree. but I wouldn’t believe myself for a minute were I on the receiving end”? It’s the feeling I get when I can recite all the right words about a topic. deﬁne the natural law perfectly. I wouldn’t be a teacher. that this book came almost to write itself.
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Since I’m not that clever. even if we do not know we know it. We waste our time if we think that natural law can be proven.Chapter 1 Introduction Natural law is not an ethical position we are asked to adopt. calling forth your hidden (even to yourself) knowledge of the natural law merely by asking you a series of questions. Would that I were clever as Socrates. I will have to take the long way around. a great many academics spend their time doing just that. ground. Natural law is an account of what we already know about right and wrong. that the point is to found. Yet. and since this is a book. Natural law is a claim that there are certain judgments that we have already made and could not help making.1 referring to the practice of midwifery. I would be wasting my time trying to prove natural law to you. or in some other way demonstrate the truth of natural law. Neither is it a philosophical claim that we are required to found or justify. just waiting to be born. The process is known as maieutic. through which the questioner causes the answerer to give birth to what is already present. not a dialogue. . and even if we have the misfortune of never learning what we already know.
and if so. Antigone put it as well as anyone ever has when King Creon asks her if she was aware of his proclamation against burying her brother Polyneices. (Sophocles. an older way. an era in which the individual comes ﬁrst? If so. they always live. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw It is civic law that we drive on the right side of the road (at least in the United States). just as “ﬁre burns both here and in Persia. Antigone. so to speak. For me it was not Zeus who made that order. It is natural law (reﬂected in the civic law) that it is wrong to murder. natural law is all around. So not through fear of any man’s proud spirit would I be likely to neglect these laws. don’t trade on insider information in the stock market. don’t drive over the posted speed limit. nor yesterday’s. why she still dared break the law. 1134b27). To call natural law “natural. then individuals are born with rights attached to them.2 N a r r at i v e . a mortal man. human rights come from natural law. including his fellow man or woman. draw on myself the gods’ sure punishment. N at u r e . In other words. Another way of looking at this question. We have human . Wyckoff translation) About some speeches. and so forth. lines 450–460.” as Aristotle remarks (Nicomachean Ethics. Not now. it is most present in what is called international human rights. Nor did I think your orders were so strong that you.” means that it is wrong for the same reasons everywhere. Today. Are human rights what natural law looks like in a liberal era—that is. even though some question the relationship. is to see individuals as possessing rights because of how each individual stands in relationship to the natural order. Nor did that Justice who lives with the gods below mark out such laws to hold among mankind. and no one knows their origin in time. could over-run the gods’ unwritten and unfailing laws. In fact. explication would only lessen their impact.
Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought. most of them similar to these in tone and spirit. What would happen if someone said. some people are superior to others. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Like most readers (I imagine). I was in almost complete agreement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. but it can wait. And so it goes—a total of 30 articles. the Universal Declaration offers little help here. but it offers no arguments for them.Introduction 3 rights only because we ﬁrst share in the natural law. It asserts these rights. Article 3 Everyone has the right to life. Some people deserve to be tortured. and the last ten more speciﬁc. This is an important distinction. Freedom of thought and expression are too dangerous to be left to any but an elite few”? What would I. liberty and security of person. Perhaps one cannot argue very well for principles as basic as these. “No. . One expression of human rights is the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. a point considered in chapter 3. adopted in 1948 in the aftermath of the Second World War. One just knows or feels (likely some combination of both) them. This leads to another consideration. or one doesn’t. inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. . an argument based on shared membership in the human family. . but soon found myself wondering. . Much of what it says seems quite straightforward. conscience and religion. Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. say to this person? For. Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel. what would anyone. though if one works hard enough one can discover an argument in the Preamble.
proclaiming the deliberate murder of women. The trials recognized that every mature human being knows (or should know) that certain terrible acts. trials that lasted almost a year. in retrospect. The Nuremberg Trials were not just a case of the victors punishing the vanquished. as well as in the International Criminal Court. Every human being with reason knows that it is wrong to deliberately murder innocents. it is no defense to claim that one is following orders. one reﬂected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself. in response to a problem faced by the Allies at the end of the Second World War. laws to deport them to the death camps. in part. justice had nothing to do with it. How could they be found guilty of following the civil law?2 The Allies put twenty-four of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany on trial in the city of Nuremberg. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not written in a vacuum.” the concept was implicit from the beginning.4 N a r r at i v e . or even the law of the land. children. The German defendants said that they were following the laws of Germany. there was a problem. told the court that the trial was nothing more than an exercise of power by the victors of the war. one of the leading organizers of the Holocaust. About some acts. We may disagree over the details. N at u r e . When it was time for the Allies to put the architects of the Holocaust on trial in 1945. whether or not they . the Nuremberg Trials can be seen as establishing an important principle. Almost everything the Germans did was totally legal according to the German civic law. Hermann Goering. an institution whose origin can be traced back to the Nuremberg Trials. The Germans were scrupulous about the law—passing laws to strip Jews of their citizenship. Though the Allies never used the term “natural law. The trial court claimed differently. and so forth. but every normal human being knows that civil laws. It was written. Though there was considerable dispute about the status of the court at the time. there exists a higher law that every normal human being must know. and noncombatants violate the conscience of humankind. About such things as the murder of innocents. or commands claiming the status of law.
that’s who. relied on arguments alone. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. I can’t make any sense of it. Neither the Nuremberg Trials nor Martin Luther King Jr. This recognition is reﬂected in the First Protocol of the Geneva Convention of 1977. you don’t muster better counterarguments. Who’s to decide? The one with the most power. during the height of the struggles against segregation in the American South. Another example of the presence of the natural law in everyday political life is Martin Luther King Jr. which was legal at that time in Alabama. certain commands. the problem remains. I say it doesn’t.” written in 1963.” Against such an argument. as has been wisely said. How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. King was in jail for protesting segregation.3 Still. You say it does. are wrong. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.Introduction 5 are in accord with the civic law. and not to be committed. which protects unarmed civilians from attack by air and ground forces. and King helped mobilize a vast civil rights movement employing civil disobedience. “I don’t think such a higher law exists. so violate the conscience of humankind that they are not to be obeyed. ostensibly parading without a permit. even when given by those in a position to issue lawful orders. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. We should not expect our arguments to overwhelm the wicked and unreceptive. at least when put forth by someone like Goering.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. The Nuremberg Trials convicted and executed a dozen leading Nazis (Goering committed suicide the night before his planned execution). This is what King said about the laws he broke. but really the laws upholding segregation. What do you say to someone who counters. To put it in the terms of St. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. . You shoot him. Furthermore.
and democracy itself would be impossible. there is no human nature that renders some actions entirely inhuman. To many of my students. plus a certain modesty about our own convictions (which is not the same as relativism). a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Relativism? Allan Bloom (1988). said that there are two things that almost every freshman there believes: The truth is relative Everybody is equal The second assumption depends on the ﬁrst. Democracy depends on relativism. James Q. If the truth weren’t relative. makes much the same claim as Bloom. then those who know it would be better than those who don’t. I found that there was no general agreement that those guilty of the Holocaust itself were guilty of a moral horror. “It all depends on your perspective. . it is certainly different from Wilson’s vision. That other conclusions might follow seems not to have occurred to Bloom’s students. . . But we live with those who hold to false beliefs out of a combination of desire for civil peace. Ask college students to make and defend a moral judgment about people or places with which they are personally unfamiliar. Thus it was all the more shocking when . Many will act as if they really believed that all cultural practices were equally valid. all moral claims were equally suspect. or so he tells us. Wilson. (Wilson 1993. or so the reasoning of the young seems to conclude.” one said . In most respects their lives are exemplary. . . who taught at the University of Chicago for years. who approaches the natural law from the perspective of evolutionary development (the topic of chapter 4). . 6–8) If Bloom holds to a version of the natural law (and that is unclear). and human nature was inﬁnitely malleable .6 N a r r at i v e . which is based in human social nature as it has evolved over a hundred thousand years. . such as that the truth is not relative. N at u r e . . . Bloom’s natural law would probably come closer to Antigone’s belief in universal principles that are known .
than “feel it?” Does it help to know that Martin Luther King Jr. “How can we teach that?” said one committee member. The goal was to develop an ethics curriculum for the lower grades. including that history yet to be written? What happens when students and others lose conﬁdence in their ability to say that acts of mass murder and genocide are deﬁnitely wrong. but concern every thinking individual: Do we need to prove that the Nazis were wrong. a couple of concerned parents. a couple of concerned teachers. Or if they are. does “know it” mean anything more. and does natural law tell us so? A moral catastrophe A number of years ago. or is it good enough simply to know it? And. This is the implication of the title of his book The Closing of the American Mind to the possibility of an immediate natural experience of right and wrong. or less.Introduction 7 by all who would but look and listen. at teaching students that they shouldn’t hit each other. and me. but that he had natural law on his side? Did natural law help him and others of goodwill in their struggles? Does it help us better understand the history of the civil rights movement. both Bloom and Wilson reveal that the issues raised by the natural law are not merely academic. then the issues the academy deals with are not just for ivory tower intellectuals. We got stuck at the very beginning. “Some . The advisory panel had on it those you might expect: ministers. such as someone living a life of drugs and crime? Do we know for certain that such a life is wrong. evidently echoing the views of several other members. indeed inhuman? What about more subtle (and they are not terribly subtle) examples. I was invited to serve on the ethics curriculum advisory panel of the local county school board. wasn’t merely victorious in his struggle against legal segregation. What should an ideal ethics curriculum teach? We never got anywhere. rabbis. Different as their views of the origin of natural law are.
At ﬁrst glance. “In my classes. The specter of “cultural relativism” haunted them—that someone somewhere might object to a particular value. . only their own untrustworthy judgment to fall back on. Before continuing. will warn one another and me not to be ‘judgmental’ or to ‘impose your values on other people’ ” (1993. college students asked to judge . one imagines these committee members as students in one of James Q. no committee member knew of the existence of any culture that valued the “physical expression of difference. Wilson’s classes. Furthermore.” by students hitting each other. I should tell you something about the community in which I live.8 N a r r at i v e . it is a lesson in survival. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw cultures value the physical expression of difference. in which three faiths were to worship separately but together in the same “Interfaith Center. . but has not entirely disappeared. I believe they would have rejected it if it had. It is a planned community. but misleadingly. originally built upon a communitarian ideal. and who are we to say otherwise?” An odd thing about this conversation was that not a single member of this committee thought that students should hit each other. if not corrupted. or should be taught that it was correct to express their differences in this way. The committee members simply had no conﬁdence in their ability to judge right and wrong for the purposes of teaching others.” which is purposefully unadorned with religious symbols. The communitarian ideal has faded over the years. though not in practice. Though they were a generation older. Why? Because in theory. not every community would have responded as the representatives of this community did. but the committee understood that in a contemporary world in which a student who got hit might come back with a weapon. individual choice is sacred. Not only that. 7). self-control is not just a virtue. The result can be quite confusing. The notion that the cultivated judgment of the community. N at u r e . called relativism. The experience I had is sometimes. and they would have nothing deﬁnitive to say. it is similar to the situation described . is the basis of the natural law did not occur to them. In other words.
possibly more. measuring each by objectively shared standards of excellence. corresponds to Thrasymachus. as I call him. has disappeared. Neither the ideal of the scientiﬁc method. but the context.Introduction 9 by Alasdair MacIntyre in the opening pages of After Virtue (1981. brought on by the unfettered experimentation of scientists. brutal truth. the good for man and woman. such as “molecule” and “inertia. They would recover many of the terms. and ultimately incoherent.” but the experimental and theoretical framework that gave these terms meaning was lost.” “the human good. Angry mobs had burned laboratories.4 Among my very best students. as well as libraries ﬁlled with scientiﬁc journals. so that every individual could see that his or her own good was naturally part of the common good. the Avalanche Man . 1–3). the Avalanche Man. their use of the scientiﬁc terms was arbitrary. This is the environment in which natural law emerged—a world in which people understood themselves ﬁrst and foremost as part of a community. This is the situation with ethics. not merely a matter of taste. As a result. and which gave them meaning. a sophist who speaks the fearsome. nor the theories in which these terms were embedded. Much later. Imagine that an ecological catastrophe had occurred. at least a generation. Where once one could talk about a human life as one might talk about a watch. Absent.” and so forth remain. which is roughly that of the Aristotelian worldview. was available to the new scientists. that makes a judgment about a life or an action objective. Why has it passed? Because we no longer live in traditional communities of shared values. is the evaluative framework. that time has long passed. If the good people of the ethics committee correspond to Glaucon and Adeimantus. in which the telos of a good human life was obvious for all to see. characters in Plato’s Republic who represent average citizens. Perhaps the best way to explain this is to tell a story about its polar opposite. Terms such as “morally right. says MacIntyre. in other words. today. scholars as well as ordinary men and women would try to reconstruct the science that had been lost.
Nothing in college except room. all the while maintaining an “A” average.5 I thought of the Avalanche Man again on 9/11. for we had just been talking about how it had been easy for him to save money. a quick commute by subway to Wall Street. It had been easy because he had no time for a social life and so had nothing to spend his money on. and books. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw worked almost full time. since even the term seems almost a relic of a bygone era? As Vice President Joseph .10 N a r r at i v e . and nothing while at his investment banking job except good suits and a little room in New Jersey. and went on to earn an MBA at Harvard. It’s like an avalanche. studied so hard. and given up so much. Our society depends on that. Natural law positivism How to characterize the position of most people in the United States today toward the natural law. putting himself through school. board. an economic collapse. Why do you live like this. That’s just the way he had always known it would be. I was speechless. He came back to visit me several years later (well before the Great Recession of 2008). N at u r e . or that he took pleasure in the thought of being one of the few survivors of a great catastrophe. and I asked him why he had worked so hard. he worked as an intern at an investment banking ﬁrm on Wall Street. There was nothing in the way he talked about the impending economic avalanche that suggested hostility. And I want as many bodies as possible between me and the bottom to cushion the fall. and he had been planning for years to be a survivor. when hundreds of men and women. paid hundreds of times less than my former student. I think the country is headed for an economic disaster. The summer after his junior year. he said. Working seventy. I asked? What’s the point? Will you ever stop? Not for now. rushed into the bottom of the collapsing avalanche of the twin towers and died trying to save others.to eighty-hour weeks doesn’t leave much time to spend money.
the term “positivistic natural law” would come closest to the mark. and it is primarily on the basis of my research for that book that I draw my conclusion. Limited resources: people need food and shelter. I reported on my studies of what young people believe about the natural law. The facts of human nature include the following: Human vulnerability: if humans had exoskeletons. Hart. Positivistic natural law is descriptive natural law. Relative equality: the weakest can kill the strongest because even the strong must sleep. referring to the way in which this position posits reality. L. natural law would look quite different. the unsurprising answer. and “natural law dictates morality to us. Hart argues that enforceable law is necessary if humans are to live decently among each other. The preeminent theorist of positivistic natural law is H. is that the vast majority of those interviewed avoided the extremes of both the ethics committee and the Avalanche Man. Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court was unqualiﬁed because he believed in the natural law (a suggestion for which there is little evidence). and what the world would look like if we did. Most were not relativists. is needed. though not necessarily private property. a description that remains on the surface. instead of leaving matters to individual choice” (MacIntyre 2000). Given certain facts of human nature. and so some institution of property. The simple answer. but . Over whether we really want to leave basic moral issues to individual choice. Most held to a slimmed-down version of the natural law. but neither are they angels. A. Limited altruism: people are not devils.Introduction 11 Biden stated when he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If one were going to put a name to this majority position. 23–60). In another book (Alford 2006. Biden did not opine. Limited understanding and strength of will: most can see the point of this minimal natural law [for that is what Hart calls it].
one can see that the laws of states and nations. A system of laws that preserved the security. Hart’s great virtue is his refusal to pretend that the naturalistic fallacy (the so-called derivation of “ought” from “is”) poses a barrier to natural law. whereas “a teleological conception of nature as containing in itself levels of excellence” is “too metaphysical for modern minds” (1994. MacIntyre argues that the natural necessity to which Hart refers is void of moral content. that is the conclusion . MacIntyre does not give Hart credit for recognizing this problem. On the contrary. 211–212). N at u r e . under which the dispossession and persecution of the Jews was entirely legal. Hart does not state this explicitly. says Hart. disclose the core of good sense in the doctrine of Natural Law” (199). and property of its members would be valid even if these laws condoned slavery and the persecution of minorities (MacIntyre 2000. are rooted in natural necessity. a system of obsessive legality. he simply doesn’t think it is best solved under the guidance of the natural law. . Hart holds this position because he believes that “the minimum content of Natural Law” is supported by the facts of human nature. An unjust legal system would fulﬁll the needs of stability as well as a just legal system. the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy only to those modern minds that cannot imagine that the desire to live might itself imply the desire to live well. men and women must take upon themselves the moral burden to violate an iniquitous law. one is stepping into a realm of moral nothingness. Hart does. as Hart calls it (1994.” “These simple truisms we have discussed . which Hart readily characterizes with the term “natural law. stability. 194–198) Accordingly. (Hart 1994. called positive law. Where Hart goes wrong is in suggesting that in stepping outside the law. or at least into a realm in which nothing useful can be said. but because he says nothing else about this realm outside the law. 192–193. . Hart’s emphasis).12 N a r r at i v e . On the contrary. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw frequently lack the foresight and strength of will to stick to these arrangements. One thinks here of National Socialism in Germany. 96–97).
Someone with naturally perfect pitch may never learn to express that gift if he or she remains in a musically impoverished environment. Nature. The complement of Hart’s positivistic natural law is moral decisionism. the subjects of chapter 4. but unlike the best and most self-conscious evolutionary biologists. Here too. much like an undeveloped talent in other areas of life. chapter 2. Others. including human nature. it’s good to become the best human one can be. to fulﬁll one’s potential as fully as possible. and the Natural Law “Written on the heart” is a term often used to describe natural law. . even though you may have chosen to forget it. I return to this point in a later chapter. Ethics. one way in which morality is corrupted is found in Aquinas’s account of the German robbers in. The latter category sounds contradictory. calls “connaturality. But in the larger tradition of the natural law.” “Nature” has been deﬁned by evolutionary biologists. nature has come to mean not just humans as they are.” Maritain’s account of moral intuition is the topic of chapter 3. And what is that? Aristotle argued that reason can best answer the question of human fulﬁllment (N. as well as the proper place of humans in the order of things. not fulﬁllment. the point is that moral intuition can have the status of an undeveloped capability. It means that merely by virtue of being human you know it. Many natural law theorists deﬁne natural law as “reason reﬂecting on nature. what Jacques Maritain. In other words. but as they could be at their very best. natural law theorists treat development as an evaluative term. who understand that evolution means change. the twentieth century’s most inﬂuential interpreter of Thomas Aquinas.Introduction 13 one must draw. or have been so unfortunate never to have learned what you already know. It means simply that you have been brought up in an environment in which you have not been encouraged to develop or use your moral intuition. an evolutionary sense of development is at work. as evolved mammalian nature. For now. book 2). but it is not. Narrative.
a combination of low-grade cognitive and affective activity. puts it even more simply. a necessary but not sufﬁcient condition. . While we can know our intuitions by feeling them. . Not only ethologists (scientists of animal behavior). Moral intuition must become part of a social group’s story about itself in history. Vernon Bourke. like that obtained through concepts and conceptual judgments. Most men and women come to know the natural law by means of “ordinary grasping . intuitions possess the status of a natural law only to the degree that they are shared with others in a community . Knowledge by inclination . But if natural law stems from intuition. The intuitive basis of natural law must be subject to narrative. Even if there is direct access to the natural law through intuition. . that is neither an argument nor sufﬁcient evidence on its behalf. in which the intellect. knowledge by inclination. based on sympathy. 218). is a kind of knowledge that is not clear. This claim about narrative is an empirical claim. unsystematic. are the basis of human morality and the natural law. such as chimpanzees and dolphins. Some evolutionary natural law theorists do not go on to make this important distinction. vital knowledge by means of instinct or sympathy [connaturality]. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw such as Jacques Maritain.14 N a r r at i v e . . (Maritain 1951. as well as an epistemological one. Natural law has the status of a moral intuition. have relied on intuition. but moral philosophers such as MacIntyre (1999) have come to recognize that animal feelings. their thinking guides my own. but only the basis. and certainly not that of Bourke. Sometimes it is close to animal feeling” (Bourke 1998. It is obscure. 91–92) Another natural law theorist. in order to make its judgments. Though I do not adopt the view of Maritain. N at u r e . the status of natural law (both epistemological and practical) depends entirely upon its place in the narratives we weave as communities over time. consults the inner leanings of the subject—the experience that he has of himself—and listens to the melody produced by the vibration of deep-rooted tendencies made present in the subject. and shared with higher animals.
and so on. My argument (and it is not uniquely my argument) about stories will become clearer in the chapters ahead. what makes the narratives of natural law special is that they tap a deep ethical intuition about right and wrong. Not just me and my feelings. good and bad. as Barbara Hardy puts it. but the subject of social and cultural negotiation. criticize. And narratives about them are not just likely stories about how the moral world is put together. learn. one would tell another story. we make them more than private possessions. perhaps about this god’s creation of the world. remember. for narrative is how we make sense of the world. By subjecting our intuitions to narrative. Nor should we reject out of hand the claim that moral intuition taps a deep source of human experience that reveals the meaning of life in how we care for each other. plan. revise. hate and love by narrative” (Hardy 1968. certainly when they are the product of a single man or woman’s insight. for example) are not self-justifying. one might call these stories “derivations from ﬁrst principles. but even when they are widely shared. Or. If my argument is correct. as it already has been. For example. Intuition is not self-justifying. doubt. However. over time. one might tell a story about a god giving a prophet a tablet with this commandment written upon it. problems in the theory of knowledge. 5). To be sure. And the only way humans have found to do this is to tell stories about their intuitions. This experience too must be subject to narrative.” but that is just a matter of form and label. believe. is the basis of natural law. The point for now is that the claim that natural law rests upon intuition does not create or avoid any unusual epistemological problems—that is. daydream in narrative. Large numbers of people believed for a long time that slavery was compatible with the natural law . but the cultured and developed feelings of a community in history. there is reason to distrust such intuitions. anticipate. despair. hope. “We dream in narrative.Introduction 15 over time. construct. And. they require other stories to substantiate them. gossip. Since ﬁrst principles (murder is always wrong. Moral intuitions are not self-justifying. and so sharing them with others. if one were to question this story.
the relationships among all who are affected by the natural law. N. The usual line on Burke runs like this. it will be argued. “the melody produced by the vibration of deep-rooted tendencies made present in the subject. a worshiper of the expedient.” To Maritain’s claim. a view given weight by the teachings of Aristotle (Politics. To this should be added that our conﬁdence in this narrative is increased over time. book 7). is a good guide to natural law only about the most basic issues.16 N a r r at i v e . there could have been no slavery. Natural law is the vibration of deep-rooted tendencies present not only in the subject. who was convinced that the mere fact that any custom or institution had grown up over a long period of time established an overwhelming presumption in its favor. there would be reason to say that it is not merely a narrative. such as master and slave. but an articulation of our connatural experience. and then only when all affected have had a chance to tell their stories and have them heard. Narrative about intuition. For how could the relationship between master and slave vibrate in any other way but cacophonously and out of tune? You are writing about an ideal. book 1. Of course. but in the “inter-subject”—that is. This includes. (Randall 1940. Were this ideal standard adhered to in the era of slavery. in the case of the preceding example. the slave. The whole business of appealing from tradition to reason and nature was distasteful to him. but what else is the natural law? My Approach is not Burkean Some who are familiar with the history of political philosophy (and this book is not written for them alone) will be surprised to see Edmund Burke (1729–1797) even mentioned under the category of natural law. N at u r e . 432) . c’s 3–7. Ethics. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw because some people were natural slaves. as Maritain calls it. the reader might reply. He was primarily a utilitarian. I would offer a friendly amendment. Should this narrative remain convincing to large numbers of people.
much to say.”6 Similarly. of course. Burke had. to alter—I mean the will of Him who gave us our nature. . are liable to fall into a direct violation of them. . we are every day endeavouring to subvert the maxims which preserve the whole spirit of our own. Burke was a thoroughgoing exponent of the natural law. “which is grounded on our common nature. the right of Irish Catholics to own property is based on eternal law and equality.9 Against the French Revolution.Introduction 17 In fact. but that they violated “the principle of a superior law. not because he believed in an abstract right of revolution. employing it consistently throughout his long career in the British parliament and as a private citizen. “In order to prove that the Americans have no rights to their liberties. by which we are connected in the eternal frame of the universe. An especially revealing comment came in his response to a Dr. immutable. must always be subordinate to the civic law. and to destroy monopoly. The East India charter is a charter to establish monopoly and to create power.8 Burke concluded that all men are born subject to one great. and the civic law to eternal law. and in their very frame and constitution. Political power and commercial monopoly are not the rights of men . including the will of the Crown. . . Price. which it is not in the power of any community. Burke argued that the Magna Charta is a charter to restrain power. Englishmen would soon have none at home. or of the whole race of man. said Price.”7 The principle Burke followed is that arbitrary will. Against British laws denying Irish Catholics basic rights of citizenship. These chartered rights do at least suspend the natural rights of mankind at large. a cleric who dared to compare the French Revolution with the English Glorious Revolution. Both. Against the power of the East India Company to rule over India in an arbitrary manner. Burke wrote that such laws were not only inexpedient. but because he believed that if the British government succeeded in destroying liberty abroad. preexisting law.” Burke favored the American colonists’ cause against the Crown. and in giving impressed an invariable law upon it.
.” claiming their franchises not on abstract principles “as the rights of men.” held together “by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the race . and that ancient constitution of government which is our only security for law and liberty . and do now wish. . The very idea of the fabrication of a new government. . . The Glorious Revolution. by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state” (Burke 1955. to derive all we possess as an inheritance from our forefathers.” and its “political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world. . Forget for a moment how comfortable Burke was with the British class system. 38). . . it took the rise of modern totalitarianism. . Burke has drawn the natural law and the state so closely together that they have practically become one. and East Indians. and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers. was nothing more than a re-afﬁrmance of the still more ancient standing law of the kingdom . . (Burke 1955. called the Petition of Right. whose defeat led in turn to the rise of the culture of international human rights. is enough to ﬁll us with disgust and horror. The ancient charter . We wished at the period of the Revolution. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw provided an opportunity for citizens to choose their governors. American Colonialists. For Burke. . particularly the way he consistently applied natural law thinking against arbitrary power in the defense of Irish Catholics. . .18 N a r r at i v e . to reveal the paramount . Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. 35–36) There is much to admire in Burke. Upon that body and stock of inheritance we have taken care not to inoculate any scion alien to the nature of the original plant . said Burke. Burke’s response comes close to identifying natural law with English common law and common practice. . Worrisome enough in Burke’s day.” but as the rights of Englishmen. “Your subjects have inherited this freedom. Nevertheless. N at u r e . . Britain’s “constitutional policy” works “after the pattern of nature. the parliament says to the king. In the famous law . . was made to preserve our ancient indisputable laws and liberties. . his way of approaching the natural law is opposite to the one pursued here.
we may adopt some Burkean standards. tradition. and collective wisdom may go together. will be given little extra weight because it is embodied in the constitutional practices of the state. such as whether all who are participants in the story have had a role in telling the story. but from which he drew quite a different conclusion. transformed into narrative. linking the lower with the higher natures. connecting the visible and invisible world. but as a ﬁduciary arrangement with a people’s governors. it is assumed that the state’s practices come closer to reﬂecting a history of the balance of power among those who govern than they do the natural law. one that Burke should have appreciated. such as whether our narrative has stood the test of time and circumstance. by everyone concerned. My way of proceeding assumes that natural law is always in tension with the state. but we should also consider some rather non-Burkean standards. On the contrary. time. but one that articulates a moral intuition. and both from any organic ideal. 110) Rather than continue to state the obvious. (Burke 1955. It is a point emphasized by Burke’s great English adversary in natural law thinking. that Burke comes close to equating the natural law with the class and social structure with which he is most comfortable. and not just for and to them? Moral intuition. the man who regarded government as a social contract. practice. is the story told. To be sure. not to be looked at with holy reverence. I shall wait until the conclusion of chapter 6 to make a somewhat different point. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primaeval contract of eternal society. John Locke. but so may prejudice.Introduction 19 importance of separating natural rights from the state. Natural law is a narrative we tell ourselves—not just a good story. at least in part. A contract that may be broken when the governed become convinced that . In other words. As Burke puts it. according to a ﬁxed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures each in their appointed places. In judging the validity of this intuition.
20 N a r r at i v e . but in practice this meant accepting the natural order of society. this means that the natural law should be conﬁned to the most basic rights: the rights of life. Emphasized instead is Locke’s appreciation of the mediocrity of men’s minds. Contract is not. albeit a society under law. liberty. the aspect of Locke’s thinking that I will emphasize. Burke held to this same list of rights. which would treat the traditions and ways of life with which we are most familiar as though they were automatically an expression of the natural law? . 222). Can we be more ambitious than Locke without falling into Burkean conservatism. the way in which tradition and custom are so easily confused with natural law. and property. For Locke. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw they have suffered a long train of abuses (Second Treatise of Government. N at u r e . however.
much as any discussion of psychoanalysis will eventually refer to Freud. The inﬂuence of Aquinas on the natural law is evinced by the fact that almost any discussion of the topic will refer to Aquinas. a respect that it had lacked during the medieval period. Not the ﬁrst.Chapter 2 S a i n t T h o m a s : P u t t i n g N at u r e i n t o N at u r a l L aw Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225–1274) is the paradigmatic natural law theorist.” Cicero’s discussion of the natural law in On the Republic (ca. One inﬂuence we should be skeptical of. is that of tracing the lineage of evolutionary natural law. Cicero is not considered the “father” of natural law only because he did not elaborate as Aquinas did. sometimes in excruciating detail. back to Aquinas. 54–51 BCE) sets the stage for later discussions of the natural law. An extended excerpt from Cicero will set the stage for much of our subsequent discussion as well. though some would grant it to Aristotle. however. Aquinas’s importance stems from the way in which he respects nature. . Frequently compared. any discussion of classical philosophy to Plato or Aristotle. Aquinas and evolutionary natural law mean something quite different by the term “nature. that honor probably goes to Cicero. including human nature. where much of the intellectual action is today.
Christians. Whether or not one is punished by the civil law for violating the natural law. but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign. and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. that God created the world ex nihilo. one thing today and another tomorrow. God himself is its author. eternal.22 N a r r at i v e . the basic principles are shared: natural law is universal. It is not one thing in Rome and another at Athens. eternal and imperishable. ii. Certainly. However. asserted by Augustine. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw True law is right reason conformable to nature. Divine Institutes. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. its promulgator. quite the opposite of the prevailing Judeo-Christian view. modern readers are likely to misinterpret Cicero. out of nothing (Genesis 1:1–2). In Cicero’s view. It has and has always had a force and nature of its own” (Lactantius. the monotheistic God of Jews. of course. the good respect its injunctions. For Cicero. Whether it enjoins or forbids. one could almost say. And he who does not obey it ﬂies from himself and does violence to the very nature of man. and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. (III. there is no difference between . and the wicked treat them with indifference. N at u r e . for Cicero. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law. 22) It is tempting to read Cicero’s defense of the natural law as a gloss on Antigone’s more concise defense of her violation of the civil law. Cicero held that “it is improbable that the material substance which is the origin of all things was created by divine Providence. and Muslims.10). 8. god is one with the universe. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. for the god he is concerned with shares little with the Abrahamic God. its enforcer. for one has failed to put one’s own nature in conformity with the larger natural order of things. since that phrase has become a cliché. nature will have its say. it would be more accurate to state that. and the nature in question is primarily human nature in a broad sense of the term. the universe created god. timeless. universal. More importantly. whose commands urge us to duty. This is. What about god? Here. unchangeable. And by so doing he will endure the severest penalties even if he avoids the other evils which are usually accounted punishment.
the universe and god; together they constitute the ﬁery, pulsing body that is the universe (Cicero, On the Nature of Gods, book 1). However imprecise Cicero’s view of god and the universe remains, one may appreciate that lack of clarity was in harmony with Cicero’s approach. About such big questions one can know very little for certain, and today, Cicero would probably be categorized as an agnostic who was not adverse to speculation. This is an advantage for the natural law tradition, which continues to stand in an ambivalent relationship to God, and probably should. Except for evolutionary natural law theorists, most (but hardly all) natural law theorists believe in God. However, most natural law theorists, including Thomas, understand that it is the point of natural law that it not rest solely on sacred scripture, or Divine Law. Otherwise, natural law becomes the province of a particular group of believers, rather than appealing to all who share the human world. If natural law becomes the province of religious believers, it risks alienating itself from those who would be moral for reasons having little to do with a traditional God, and more to do with their vision of the proper relationship among humans (and animals) on this planet. Natural law risks becoming irrelevant to nonbelievers. A wonderful story is told about Thomas. Elements of it are likely even true, for it circulated during his lifetime. I tell it to you for no greater purpose than to share a good story. Early in his days as a novice in the Dominican Order, Thomas was kidnapped by his elder brothers, probably on orders from their mother, and imprisoned in a dungeon of the castle of the family Aquino. There he would stay until he gave up his priestly ambitions (or, in some accounts, until he decided to become a Benedictine). During most of his imprisonment, which seems to have lasted almost two years, Aquinas was impassive, resisting only when his brothers sought to remove his friar’s frock. Tired of waiting, and perhaps wishing to humiliate their odd brother, Aquinas’s two elder brothers slipped a gorgeous courtesan into his room while he lay sleeping. For the ﬁrst and last time, Aquinas went over the top, grasping a burning branch from the ﬁre, waving it about like a sword,
N a r r at i v e , N at u r e , a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw
sending the woman shrieking from the room. With the sword of ﬁre still in his hand, Aquinas went to the door of his dungeon, locked it from the inside (it must have been more room than dungeon), and shoved the burning brand into the door, so as to make the sign of the cross in ﬁre and burnt wood. Throwing the burning branch back into the ﬁre, Aquinas sat down and continued his studies, transcribing one of Aristotle’s works on logic. It is said that on that very night, Thomas had a dream in which angels wrapped his loins in a girdle made of cords of ﬁre so painful he awakened with a cry. The girdle represented eternal chastity. From that time, he never again suffered from the desires of the ﬂesh and lived the remainder of his life in celibacy. Soon after their failed experiment in temptation, Thomas’s family relented, or simply gave up. Aquinas was released to rejoin the Dominican Order, with which he remained until the end of his days.1
Realism and Reality
Thomas’s life’s work was to join the world of Aristotle with the spirit of the Bible. The world of Aristotle is the world of natural reality, including the powers of human reason. The spirit of the Bible is the spirit of Divine revelation, and all that is accessible to faith, above all the teachings of Jesus Christ about salvation, as well as Christ’s life as a living lesson to humanity. Aristotle allowed Thomas to see nature as nature, and so encouraged humans to live in the natural world. As much as the natural world is a sign of God’s magniﬁcence, it is also our worldly home, and religion was at risk of denaturing the world by turning it into a regime of signs and symbols.2 As Thomas put it in Summa against the Gentiles (2, 4, 1), the theological point of view is not interested in ﬁre in itself, insofar as it is ﬁre. This point of view is interested in ﬁre as it represents God’s majesty (Ecclesiasticus 42:15–43:33). Such a viewpoint has its place, but it can get old. Once it comes to dominate the human experience of the world, it becomes “impossible to live a healthy and human life in a world populated exclusively
by symbols” (Pieper 1991, 47). Such a world is quite literally inhuman, incapable of supporting an animated human life, and Thomas came upon Aristotle at a time when he, and perhaps the medieval world itself (if one can speak for an era), was yearning for contact with reality in itself, something solid and ﬁrm. Thomas is a theorist of the strangeness of things. Our freedom consists in freeing ourselves of the cave of the mind, and entering into an encounter with the things of the world. “St. Thomas could as truly say, of having seen merely a stick or a stone, what St. Paul said of having seen the secret heavens, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision’ ” (Chesterton 1956, 148). What we have to ﬁgure out is how sticks and stones can gain us the heavenly vision. A large part of the answer is that, for Thomas, the heavenly vision is the unmediated earthly vision, one in which the subject is measured by the object, adaequatio intellectus et rei.3 The doctrine at work here is classical realism. The key elements of this teaching are as follows:
At least some of our concepts refer to corresponding entities in the external world. (Not all of our concepts do, because, of course, we can imagine things that do not exist.) The knowing subject is not a “brain in a jar,” but a rational animal for whom knowledge comes by way of the senses. The concept is not the object of knowledge. The concept is that by which we know the thing. The thing itself is the object of knowledge.
Thomas, we shall see, is a classical realist, an apparent empiricist, holding (in a way that only seems modern) that everything that is in the intellect has been in the senses (Chesterton 1956, 134). One way of reading Thomas is that our encounter with the reality of the natural world in all its glory brings us to life. The other way returns us to a version of a “world populated exclusively by symbols,” even if these symbols now refer to the world, not God. It will not do to spend too much time debating Thomistic realism, as the doctrine is called, but understanding
II. one can . all things” (On the Soul. 3). Until then. quickly leaving the doctrine.4 Thomistic realism is based on Aristotelian abstraction. Physics. N at u r e . be it a tree or a person. it enters into us and becomes a part of us. sticks and stones cannot literally enter into the mind. 145). This is why Aristotle makes the intriguing suggestion that “mind is. “knowing occurs when the intellect is able to ‘deﬁne’ the object to itself. Like Thomas. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw some of the issues involved will help us better comprehend his teachings on the natural law. when we understand what causes it. the ﬁnal cause or aim of all human endeavor (Aristotle.26 N a r r at i v e . if one were to talk about having in mind the image of an ideal stick or stone. This is why Raymond Dennehy seems quite wrong to claim that under realism. in the image of a desk” (Dennehy 2002. stones. but to be able to categorize it according to its cause. the perfect stick or stone so to speak. not Platonic idealism. nature and humans are part of the same order. According to Aristotle. Knowledge is not about having an image. is not to know its various instances. But this is a dangerous territory. in a way. or human virtue. an exponent of classical realism. That is. Aristotle was particularly interested in the human telos. be it sticks. of something. To know something. Of course. but we do not understand—for we don’t grasp the principle by which something acts. but rather a process by which the object enters into the subject.” Aristotle means the sake for which a thing exists or is done. or rather the possibility. And. of realism—the direct experience of reality— behind. or representation. Or rather. we see. one would have left realism for idealism. Aristotle believed that the concept of a ﬁnal cause applied to both nature and man. As far as the tree is concerned. its ultimate aim. when it is able to grasp deskness. We know something as fully as possible when we grasp its telos. III. We understand something. one would have returned to the world of Plato’s forms. 8). and so one might argue that it is an image of the stick or stone that enters the mind. say. By the term “ﬁnal cause. the mind’s direct knowledge of reality would be impossible if some third thing intervened. for the mind is notoriously active in its image making. in this case what Aristotle calls its ﬁnal cause.
is by means of an analogy with a law of nature in science. this plan is readily thwarted by a bad environment. This is roughly how Thomistic realism understands our encounter with the particulars of this world. though exemplars—good and bad—can help us answer this question about ourselves. There are so many men and women. would be better off spending our time asking this question about our own lives. contained in the tiny acorn that develops into a mighty oak. that we must ask ourselves. however. be thwarted by external events. or once believed. it is about what makes a fully developed human. But as with the oak. For a man or woman living his or her life. so many moving objects. does it accord with the human telos?” Most of us. What is it that enters the self when we know? Perhaps the easiest way to think about an abstract universal. and does it accord with a fully developed human life? That is. The plan is shared with other humans. so to speak. rather than the lives of others. for example. that a law of nature exists in the real world just as the objects it describes exist in the world. “toward what ﬁnal shape or end is this person’s life moving. This is actually not a bad way to think about the development of a man or woman as well. To understand the movement of objects. Newton’s ﬁrst law of motion. the principle is the same. not what makes a fully developed you or me. the law under which they can be placed. by the way. What is this plan? That is the topic of the next section. one must grasp the principle involved in their movement. living so many different lives. The plan can. For physical objects in motion or at rest. we encounter them in a sensible manner only when we grasp their principle. such as a forest ﬁre or drought. it may be the principle of inertia.Thomas Aquinas 27 understand Aristotle as saying that a tree does not develop randomly. for the plan is general. but according to an internal plan. not particular. Each of us contains within a plan for our full and complete development. We believe.5 Consider. as it is called by followers of Thomistic realism. in this case. . Since there are so many particulars. the tendency of an object at rest to remain at rest unless acted upon by an external (unbalanced) force. it is not enough to know the movement of particular objects.
N at u r e . a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Troubling is the tendency of Thomistic realism to lose its fascination with strangeness. The most important barrier is Thomas’s adoption of another Aristotelian category of causes. .28 N a r r at i v e . this. asking just for a reference to tawny color or great weight. formal cause.” Aristotle referred not to what we today would call a cause at all. 71) Thomas applies the concept of formal cause to man much as Nussbaum does to a lion. and how these interact. 145). it is very clear that to explain behavior we must refer not to surface conﬁguration. This is the form. then. And it is this. But in the case of living things. but to the functional organization that the individuals share with other members of their species. it is evidently all too easy to end up holding the view that “matter is the enemy of knowledge” (Dennehy 2002. I am not. as well as its capacity for wonder. What is it to be a human? We are . get thin or fat.6 These may be quite subtle. Martha Nussbaum explains the concept of formal cause this way. but its soul. again. its form is not its shape. without ceasing to be the same lion. (Nussbaum 1978. By the term “formal cause. let us be clear that not only is that last short step never taken by Thomas. However. since it cannot perform the activities appropriate to a man. When I ask for the formal account of lion behavior. . and relevant account for the scientist interested in explaining and predicting lion behavior. the functional organization. rather than an enumeration of its material constituents. what vital capacities they have. . but aspects of his work stand against it. the set of vital capacities. and only with the general form of matter (a view akin to scientiﬁc general laws). I am asking for an account of what it is to be a lion: how lions are organized to function. and not the shape remains the same as long as the creature is the same creature. From a belief that realism is unconcerned with particulars. but it is not a man. Viewing Thomistic realism in this fashion loses much of what is gained by his project. but to the structural fundamentals shared by all elements of a class. general. in virtue of which it lives and acts . A corpse has the same shape as a living man. The lion may change its shape. that will provide the most simple.
The identiﬁcation of formal with ﬁnal causes is not vacuous. the telos. is embodied and expressed in its formal cause—that is. as we have seen. when we know one. and again a distinction can be drawn between the superﬁcial and contingent characteristics of a being. all without losing its tantalizing distance and difference from its beloved. . that there is something internal to it which will have the result that the outcome of the sequence of changes it is undergoing—if it runs true to form—will be another entity of the same kind. For what is love without difference between desire and its object? More on this topic follows in the discussion of connaturality in the next section. Thomistic realism is particularly useful in understanding how love can lead us to know the natural law. love wants to become adequate to what it knows. abstracted from its superﬁcial and contingent characteristics. about a developing entity. It is to say. The ﬁnal cause. there is very little difference between formal and ﬁnal cause. Love. We are asking what it means to live a fully human life. wanting to become what it knows. idealistic connotations of the term. The ﬁnal cause refers to the purpose for which a being exists. This is as true for a man or woman as a lion. and its ultimate end. we know the other. though these facts are relevant. This is the concern of the natural law. gives birth. the sake for which something exists. Or rather. For all its formality. a claim that may surprise. The formal cause refers. copulates.Thomas Aquinas 29 not asking just for a description of a being that eats. to the essential nature of the being in question. and dies. its fundamental structure. raises its young. however. Love has the quality of realism. In fact. and the conditions required to fulﬁll it. Is it worthwhile distinguishing between formal and ﬁnal cause. goes a step further. given the romantic. what is usually called a telos?7 Not necessarily. to receive its lover’s imprint. the only way in which we can know its true purpose. Love is realism.8 In this case another lion. Like knowledge.
knowledge of the natural law does not depend on knowledge of eternal law. One can know the right thing to do. 94. (Grotius 1964. avoid evil” might sound like a tautology. which is God’s law. Or as Hugo Grotius (orig.30 N a r r at i v e . or that the affairs of men are of no concern to Him. giving content to the good. II) Peter Kreeft (1990. good Aristotelian that he is. but he does not know that it is the eternal law” (511). not contrary to it. and evil is to be avoided” (ST I–II. avoid evil” is a tautology as a stand-alone premise. What we have been saying [about natural law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness. Yet.9 For Aquinas. Prolegomena. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Thomistic Natural Law For Thomas. ‘If God does not exist. 2). without knowing why. one can feel it in one’s bones. “Do good. Aquinas quickly ﬁlls it in. natural law is the way in which humans participate in Eternal Law. Foster marriage and the sound upbringing of children. . everything is permissible. such as John Finnis (1980) and Robert George (1999). one can know the natural law and act in accord with it simply by being brought up in a decent human community. 505) puts it more simply: “St Thomas would disagree with Dostoyevsky’s saying. true by deﬁnition. 1625) put it four centuries later. the founding principle of the natural law is deceptively simple: “Good is to be done. that there is no God. the reason of the Ruler of the Universe (ST I–II. 91). Kreeft elaborates. Some new natural law theorists. “When an atheist knows that theft is wrong he in fact knows something of the eternal law. Doing good includes fostering the following human goods: Preserve human life and avoid its destruction. Whether or not “do good. N at u r e .’ ” In other words. The natural law frequently has this quality. Aquinas argues that because natural law is in accord with tutored human nature. argue that it is.
Then the community is justiﬁed in treating the property of individuals as though it belonged to the entire community as it once did. The problem isn’t that men and women don’t seek the good. they want the good (ST I–II. Similarly. They wouldn’t bother getting out of bed in the morning. or they wouldn’t bother seeking it in the ﬁrst place. is bestowed upon us by nature. but it is not merely innate (ST I–II. 12). 2) How Thomas argues Thomas argues along two tracks that almost converge. 79. the problem is that men and women are frequently mistaken about the good. (ST I–II. as Thomas calls them.10 Our minds grasp this fact about the world because this is the way the world is. This speculative knowledge of ﬁrst principles. 2. and what food that remains is in the hands of speculators who are hoarding it.” This principle has roughly the same status as the principle of noncontradiction in speculative reason: the same thing cannot be afﬁrmed and denied at the same time. as moderns would have it. Being people who seek happiness. with that of the speculative intellect. Preserve community and avoid giving unnecessary offense to others. . That is. they think something is good for them. 2). whether it is an extra helping of dessert or an extramarital affair. people cannot want the good and the bad at the same time.Thomas Aquinas 31 Educate and care for the children. waiting for prices to rise. avoid evil. 1. 94. we do not impose this fact upon the world with our minds. which knows conceptual or intellectual fundamentals by virtue of the way the mind is built. the ﬁrst principle of practical reason is “do good.11 Thomas assumes that all men and women seek the good. such as when the community is starving. The ﬁrst (and dominant track) compares the operation of the practical intellect. Since all men and women seek the good. An example would be knowing that the whole is greater than any one of its parts. 76. which knows right from wrong. 51. but it isn’t. Respect private property except in exceptional circumstances. 94.
The principles of the natural law lead back to that axiom. for whom fear of individual death is the greatest fear a man or woman can experience.” if one wants to use language that does not truly apply to Thomas. that humans have bodies. the relationships. People begin life together experiencing the same good. For Aquinas. but a shared good (ST I–II. then one arrives at the leading assumptions of the natural law. The good is life. is the implication of Aquinas’s reasoning. to the upbringing of children. and security the greatest blessing (Leviathan. It’s easy to see how Thomas would be led to the conclusion that humans seek to preserve their own lives. because life is not merely a private possession. because the ﬁrst life was never lived alone. and toward most we feel amity and shared community. natural law leads man to preserve life. the good isn’t just my life. 2). One could say that all the principles of the natural law lead back to the single original insight that has virtually the status of an axiom: “do good. Since each human seeks to preserve his or her own being. In other words. to the fostering of community.12 This explains how Aquinas segues so seamlessly from the injunction to preserve human life to marriage. but in the ﬁrst community. those things pertain to the natural law by which man’s life is preserved” (ST I–II. 2). in the very ﬁrst life. This. ﬁrst his own. N at u r e . Thomas concludes that “according to this inclination. but gain their force only when combined with the natural fact that men and women are rational embodied beings who want to live . and not even with the ﬁrst Adam or Eve. The ingredients. because that is good. 94. avoid evil. 13). individuals do not come together to sign a contract to guarantee their own security. and then that of others. because there is no social contract. toward others friendship. c. are all there from the beginning. because their own lives are good. a life lived among other lives. at least. 94. This is the “original position. to their education and care.” But that would not be correct. Toward some we feel love. Under the natural law. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw If one brings this ﬁrst principle together with an indisputable empirical fact. only community. But how does Aquinas so quickly reach the conclusion that it is equally good to preserve the lives of others? Because Aquinas isn’t Thomas Hobbes.32 N a r r at i v e .
beings who value not only their own lives. Synderesis is a virtually universal capacity. About such basics as murder. which everybody can know. about other things. Do good. not strictly a conceptual truth.e. 1).” is a principle of the natural law. bring children into the world. and the nature of marriage. the capacity to recognize the principles called for in particular situations.. “love thy neighbor. The reason long-term error is possible is that natural law is applied according to what is called a practical syllogism. 100. once the practical intellect recognizes the nature of humanity. (This is a major premise. Thomas calls this recognition synderesis. theft. Not all of the natural law falls under these self-evident principles. known through nature (ST I–II. Thomas concludes that Christ’s teaching. such as not to take the name of the Lord in vain. that it is wrong to debase the value of human life. Conscience is the way we apply synderesis to particular circumstances. like the whole is greater than any one of its parts. this is implicit in Thomistic realism. “Every man judges instantly of its own accord” that one must not murder. and know the good. but known by . with major and minor premise. And. But not everyone knows without being taught that it is right to respect the aged. 3. (This too is a major premise. its truth also depends upon the nature of the world. but the act of applying the natural law can be reconstructed in the following fashion: A. and the like. it is possible to err in particular circumstances. but life lived with others in family and community. An example may be helpful. the nature of property. 100. Divine (i. for instance. then every rational man or woman will recognize what is morally demanded in each particular situation. Do not murder or otherwise degrade and debase human life. We don’t think about it this way because it appears so simple. biblical) instruction is needed.13 ) B. and over a long period of time. avoid evil. foster society. 1). adultery. one that points out that while normal humans cannot err regarding the ﬁrst principles of the natural law. While it is a conceptual truth. for it is always already known.Thomas Aquinas 33 together. for that knowledge is not strictly natural either (ST I–II.
(This is a minor premise in the practical syllogism. generally because they fail to recognize the full humanity of those against whom segregation or other demeaning practices are directed. not the major premise. as it degrades and debases those against whom it is directed. But even in this worst case. But as to certain particulars which are. and also as to knowledge. since some people have a perverted reason due to passion or due to evil habit or due to an evil disposition of nature. Do not practice segregation by race or any other invidious distinction. as it were. formerly among the Germans theft was not considered wrong even though it is expressly contrary to the natural law. and historical eras to get this wrong. and it is possible not just for individuals. N at u r e . 76. I have suggested that entire societies may fail to recognize the full humanity of others. the realm of the knowledge known as synderesis. a point elaborated shortly. insofar as he or she fails to understand . (ST I–II. Thomas is referring to application. the realm of conscience. In other words.”) C. thus. 1) Not just ignorance. This is the basis for our knowledge of the truth of “love thy neighbor as thyself.) Here is why the natural law is so often violated. cultures. both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. reason having become wicked. cannot avoid knowing) its principles. the minor premise. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw all rational human beings because we are embodied. but a perverse disposition. it is the same for all in most [cases]. and able to feel the suffering of others like ourselves.34 N a r r at i v e . conclusions of these general principles. We may say that as to the ﬁrst general principles the natural law is the same for all both as to rectitude and to knowledge. yet in a few cases it can fail both as to rectitude . . but Thomas comes closer to the truth when he refers to the “evil disposition of nature” that may lie behind this failure of recognition. . even though people know (indeed. but for entire societies. someone can so misunderstand the minor premise that it reaches back to pervert the major premise as well. may actually encourage someone to improperly apply the natural law. as Julius Caesar recounts in The Gallic Wars.
6). Connaturality and love of knowledge Less frequently addressed—at least until Jacques Maritain made it the centerpiece of his reinterpretation of Thomism—Thomas argues that we may know the natural law through a process called connaturality. ST I–II. and the lover in the thing known (ST I–II. Connaturality is a type of wisdom that stems from love (amor ) of goodness that is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit (ST II–II.Thomas Aquinas 35 that stealing is stealing when you steal from X. a practice to which he gives several names. I receive the form of the object and so virtually become the object. for example. those who practiced segregation did not operate in a moral vacuum. 19. for example. Some people acted on this truth. Thomas argues. 64. even if. in which the thing known exists somehow in the lover. 1. ST I–II. it was almost always the case that some people saw and stated the truth of the natural law. In affective cognition through connaturality. if conscience errs from an ignorance that is either willed directly or willed indirectly through negligence. 2) and “judgment by inclination” (ST I. it is not difﬁcult to interpret connaturality in a more secular vein. . they were presented with other voices. 45. 6). 97. 28. 1. Connaturality. 139. In any case. In speculative reason. 2. connaturality is the complete realization of Thomistic realism. and murder is murder when you murder Y. However. segregationists were morally responsible for their acts of omission and commission. much as Aristotle describes. For this reason. or simply ordinary citizens who lived according to the natural law. Seen from this perspective. then it does not excuse the will” (Doolan 2001. They lived their conscience. is a type of love of friendship (amor amicitiae ) that is characterized by a mutual indwelling (mutua inhaesio). such as “affective cognition” (ST I. a white person simply grew up in the segregated American South and participated in the system without objection. 2). other choices that they chose to ignore. During corrupt eras. in which entire societies practiced segregation. “As Thomas explains. Call these people civil rights workers. 2).
one understands music most profoundly by becoming musical. Moral knowledge obtained through connaturality. reliably. Connaturality is perhaps best understood as the habit of truly good men and women. the agent would be able to explain why he did what he did. embodies the principles of natural law in some manner and. Connaturality does not seem to require the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. N at u r e . Taki Suto (2004) explains connaturality this way. as a ﬂuid takes the form of its container. Hard to explain. however. this sort of knowledge plays an important role in our daily moral life.14 I know something or someone best when part of me becomes an instance of the other. I become the other while remaining irredeemably myself. One does not have to think. Maritain develops this line of thought further under the category of amour fou. or mad love. For instance. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw the process is a two-way street. If Aquinas sounds more like a poet than a philosopher here. anyone who has fallen desperately in love will know what I mean. one knows the right thing to do. As far as human love is concerned. the emergency of the . want to do it. then a couple of concrete examples may be helpful. because of this fact. on the other hand. In loving music. the one who loves to know not only becomes open to the other. the action of saving a drowning child sometimes may come too late if one deliberates about the importance of life. and even with pleasure. The connatural knowledge. and loves to do it. In loving honor. he becomes liquid (liquefacto) himself—able to take the form of the other. either by himself alone or with the help of instruction by someone else. Thanks to this knowledge. The advantage of connaturality is that it is immediate. merely says “Do this” or “Do that” but does not ask “Why” at the moment of obtaining the knowledge. immediately. The perfect use of reason in moral knowledge is to deduce the conclusion of a practical syllogism having a principle of the natural law as its major premise. Moreover. we can accomplish morally right actions without hesitation.36 N a r r at i v e . feeling joy when they do so. one understands honorable actions best and most thoroughly by becoming honorable. if he were asked later. When the heart of the one who loves to know melts like the heart of the lover. though such inspiration may be a great help. who naturally love what is true and right.
To ignore (i.. which might best be translated today as moral intuition. but avoiding willful ignorance of all the badness in the world. maximally as love. Howard Kainz (2004. 2). the hurt and disrespect to others’ feelings that seems built into so much of everyday life. “[w]hat are you going through?” (Weil 1977. indeed. for that is a matter of predilection and ability. good men and women love knowledge. serving to provide the practical syllogism with an intuitive and loving boost. or the danger involved in rescue. (64) Because actions taken under the inﬂuence of connaturality can be discussed and explained under the practical syllogism. that too runs counter to the natural law. obliges us to look around at what is happening to others (ST I–II. they need each other—connaturality. requirements of the natural law. but of the knowledge of what others are going through.Thomas Aquinas 37 situation. the vessel belongs to the seeker who ﬁrst asks its guardian. a king paralyzed by a painful wound. connaturality and the practical syllogism reinforce each other. 22) says that “this might be interpreted minimally as social consciousness. which tells us to open our eyes and look around. As importantly. 94. That knowledge . In one version of the legend of the Holy Grail. not necessarily abstract intellectual knowledge. The action could be effective only with immediate and almost automatic decision and exercise. we see that in addition to loving what is good and right. even if that is not the whole story: Preserve life Parental responsibility for rearing and educating children Pursue knowledge and sociability About the last lesson. his swimming ability. One can reduce Aquinas’s teachings to three lessons. be willfully ignorant of) the suffering of others. Pursuing sociability and knowledge.e. 51). but connatural knowledge does since it is the appetitive element or the desire that makes the very knowledge available for the agent. The perfect use of reason does not ensure the execution of the action.” Love not only of others.
79. but beyond history. makes a difference in assessing whether it is “discursive. 19). natural law is not only without speech. connaturality. indeed conceivable only as shared experience. 139–159) argues that Thomas’s (ST I. our knowledge of basic goods for Thomas is profoundly social because basic goods themselves are social. First.” Or rather. shared with others. one could never learn this good without being able to share in the experience of generations who have passed this good down to us as culture and institutions. 12) account of how the principles of natural law are originally impressed on conscience (synderesis) through a direct experience of nature leaves scant room for reﬂective consideration of past experience or practical exigencies. no room at all for discursive deliberation in which the wisdom of others might be sifted and weighted. One might almost call that love.38 N a r r at i v e . Some would be more ﬂuent at . one could never learn what the good of preserving community means without years of experience living in a community. some things are only learned in a discursive manner. Attention turns us from ourselves. N at u r e . one reason we know that connatural knowledge embodies the principles of natural law is because a person who acted intuitively on this basis would be able to explain his or her act in discourse with others were he or she called upon to do so. but the content of what is learned. opening us to the experiences of other people. 64) reminds us. directed against Thomas. and no time for prudential self-assessment or inner critique (Schneck 2004. For example. Certainly it is a form of knowledge too little practiced. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw requires paying attention to others. Strauss is mistaken in two respects. discussion. Strauss (1999. in its most immediate form. Here we see the irrelevance of an objection by Leo Strauss. In other words. As Suto (2004. Second. and discourse. Indeed. we see that this primary experience of the natural law. no matter how one characterizes the original encounter with the ﬁrst principle. That the original experience is nonverbal does not mean that it is not subject to dialectic and discourse. is subject to explication. while originating as a singular direct experience of nature. Not just how one learns.
once we understand that he is really talking about a subtle typology. One might say. Aristotelian metaphysics. some would need to be drawn out (what Socrates called maieutic). is called sensitive love” (ST I–II. In connaturality they become one. the claim that the immediate experience of the natural law is always social. In like manner. The natural moral law theory only makes sense in terms of an acceptance of medieval physics and cosmology. we must give up natural moral law theories. (212) The simplest response may be the best. but love of others with whom we live. The original experience of natural law is perhaps best seen under the horizon of love—not just love of doing the right thing. the connaturality of the sensitive appetite or of the will to some good . but almost all could presumably put their intuition into words. Nussbaum’s (2001) explication of Aristotle’s concept of formal cause. and always subject to the dialectic. in which one can speak meaningfully about natural purposes and goals. Thomas puts it this way in comparing the connatural love of a heavy body for the center of the earth and the connatural love of the knower for the good: “Thus the connaturality of a heavy body toward the center is by reason of its heaviness and can be called natural love. one not misled by superﬁcial differences and changes. While important aspects of medieval (read Aristotelian) metaphysics and cosmology are false. However. as though humans have a given nature. reveals that the concept still . as a criticism of the Thomistic doctrine of natural moral law. . 26. remains a little abstract. that since medieval physics is false then it follows that natural moral law theory must be false.Thomas Aquinas 39 doing so than others. To this application of Aristotelian metaphysics to human action. others remain valid. . 1). If we give up the view that the universe is purposive and that all motions are just so many attempts to reach the changeless. Kai Nielsen (1988) replies. An obsolete metaphysics? The most frequent objection to Thomistic natural law is that it relies on an obsolete.
The natural law is no static constitution. and everyone we know. For what are the ﬁve human goods but a list of the essential means and ends by which humans are able to realize their ﬁnal cause. and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27). To be sure.40 N a r r at i v e . fostering our own and others’ children. The meaning of these terms changes with every generation. more than half the world fails to follow these basic teachings. but a nobler group of thieves and warriors. what a spokesman for the German robbers might say. and perhaps it is. chemistry. protecting the community. You might say that the meanings of these terms have changed since Thomas’s time. it it would arguably retain a central place in the human sciences. and the Natural Law: Comparing Stories Imagine. and certainly not according to that great summary of the Decalogue. while working to provision ourselves and others. 19–46). and whom we will love and care for in return. and most of biology. they live according to . ﬁnal cause is today generally considered bad explanation in physics. You might say that all this is obvious. And who will do the interpreting? The community—you. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw makes sense. but not hoarding our plenty in times of community distress. These warriors live not according to the natural law. Currently. . even if we might choose to give it a different name. me. their telos as human beings? It is good to live all the ages of our lives—from childhood through old age—in a community of others who care for us. Narrative. for a moment. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . we will take care to respect each other. Reason. Even if one wished to ban the concept of ﬁnal cause from the natural sciences altogether. In this community. N at u r e . If only it were practiced more widely. Perhaps not the German robbers referred to by Thomas. there is no doctrine of “original intent” to be interpreted by a court of natural lawyers. . The meaning and application of the natural law will change constantly—not in its core precepts. but its application and interpretation. including evolution (Gould 1980. Instead.
then such an argument is unlikely to be convincing. societies must defend themselves against attack.15 What makes the Thomistic narrative. transfer this set of values to a competitive capitalist economy. striving “always to be the best. respect for the strong. contempt for the weak. usually translated as pity. but if you do not believe in that original experience. says Aquinas.Thomas Aquinas 41 their own ﬁerce ethic. Or so one would hope. from caring for children to performing the hard but unglamorous work of sustaining the everyday life of a community. is that the Thomistic narrative reﬂects a more complex and subtler set of virtues. superior? One could argue that only it refers to humanity’s original experience of nature. in the real world in which we live. the characteristic virtue of the big-souled man. is the last stage in the devolution of this ethic. That ancient sourcebook of Western culture. 4). Here is the sharp but subtle difference that makes all the difference between Thomas and Aristotle. For Aristotle. Above all. 1124b-9–10). is grief or sorrow over someone else’s distress. is that it goes on to include a much wider range of human virtues.” the mantra of Gordon Gekko. A better argument. “Among the virtues that relate us to our neighbor misericordia is the greatest” (ST II–II. sufﬁciently superior so that he need never be in a position to receive them (N. The Iliad. as it is called. precisely insofar as one understands the other’s distress as starkly similar to one’s own.” This last phrase was the motto of the ancient Greek agonal culture. Ethics. The great virtue of the Thomistic narrative. Or as MacIntyre (1999) puts it. One might. protagonist of the 1987 movie Wall Street. is exemplary. . emphasizing death before dishonor. 30. as it was the standard by which all other values were measured.16 Pity. These include the virtues of a warrior. and the ethic it embodies. with considerable corruption of the original intent. or do not believe that knowledge of this experience is binding. a culture in which competition was not so much the highest value. “Greed is good. however. potent enough to confer beneﬁts. for. This too takes courage. the corresponding virtue is not pity but megalopsychos. Thomas understands the virtue of misericordia. in this case.
virtues that weave the citizens of a community together. in this case the city-state of 5. particularly the degree to which it is “natural. the polis of the kalos kagathos. this blind spot was not completely absent in Athens.17 The ethic of Aquinas is superior to the heroic ethic because it draws on a wider range of subtler virtues. such as Thomistic natural law versus heroic ethics. We do that. This care might be called love. even if it was lacking in her philosophers. but I have characterized the only type of argument that really works in these matters: comparing stories (Levine 1998). not Athens. an illusion shared by Aristotle. when we apply the natural law to a particular case (and even that I will question). For Thomas. both in the giver and the receiver. lines 28–32.” the syllogistic method makes no sense. one centered in Jerusalem. One of several reasons Antigone would bury her brother is simple pity for his naked humiliation in death (Sophocles. only in communities of mutual need can the care we extend toward others stem from a genuine identiﬁcation with their suffering. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw We recognize here an illusion of self-sufﬁciency. N at u r e . 422–426). the beautiful and the good. an illusion that plays its part in excluding them from certain types of communal relationships. praise.000 admired by Aristotle. even in its civilized Aristotelian version—we are not putting an instance under a universal principle. or blame—and this applies even more clearly when we are comparing ethical systems. in an almost automatic fashion.” And yet it is precisely this virtue that Thomas would foster. Even today. according to Thomas. what is called pity or compassion. (127) Megalopsychos is what the heroic ethic looks like when it is extended from the battleﬁeld to the polis. that is all too characteristic of the rich and powerful in many times and places. the legacy of the Homeric warrior kept alive for millennia. Antigone. When we ethically judge. In fact. rather than pretending to an autonomy that does not exist.42 N a r r at i v e . Can I prove this to you? No. it is hardly a compliment to say of someone “I pity you. always the aristocratic ideal. Overcoming this blind spot took another tradition. What universal principle or major premise could we use in . But when we are questioning the natural law itself.
possibly because aspects of our culture and way of life are not conducive to this knowledge. nothing to assert that would remain more than an assertion. or rather its natural basis. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. community. but that you have not put them together. assuming an experience that is in doubt. invoking such categories as pity. 2).Thomas Aquinas 43 this case? The direct experience of natural law? That would be cheating. I am assuming that you know most of these things. Trying to show you that my narrative or story actually ﬁts your inclinationes naturales about ethics better than another is the only way we can possibly proceed at this level. In other words. as Thomas calls them. akin to connaturality (ST I–II. but admire power and wild self-assertion. A person’s inclinations are in accord with his or her status as animal and rational being.18 We praise goodness. 94. fails to recognize this important aspect of human existence. he means the tendency of a person to act in accordance with his or her nature (ST I–II. 2). Incidentally. standing closer to the Homeric ethic of ancient Greece than is commonly recognized. 94. In trusting your inclinationes naturales. The argument here only arises in a world . beliefs about the good life. I do not follow Jacques Maritain (1951. I am trusting that my explication will bring together your deepest. I am bringing narrative to bear on your inclinationes naturales. There is nothing to deduce that would not assume what is already in doubt. we are comparing narratives. in which I am trying to show you that my favorite narrative is a more compelling account of life as it is and should be lived than another. I am demonstrating that a widely admired narrative. It would be more accurate to say that inclinations are the natural law. and the way in which acknowledged dependence is a virtue in order to do so. 91–92) in interpreting inclinations (habet naturalem inclinationem) as the way we learn the natural law. At the same time. The argument I am making here is not one that would have been likely to occur in the world in which Thomas lived and wrote. but as yet unformed. In doing this. Just one example: Donald Trump remains on many Most Admired Americans lists. By this term. Instead.
A good narrative puts together an inchoate inclination with experience. who argues that Thomistic natural law remains inextricably bound to a medieval worldview. my approach of trying to convince you that my story about Thomas. but something like “the values of our society. 13). For Aquinas. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw of competing master narratives. including (but not limited to) the ﬁve human goods proposed by Thomas. N at u r e . the human goal of the human good. who will have stories of their own to tell.44 N a r r at i v e . I call it narrative brought to bear on nature. a story is a purpose transformed into enough experience to allow that purpose to understand itself a little better” (Rosenthal 1987. Ours . For Niebuhr. even if we never call it that. and if so whether there might be several quite different ways to live out this narrative. becomes a real question. The term “purpose” is another word for telos. Narrative and nature Instead of referring to reason brought to bear on nature. while remaining overconﬁdent in reason. “At minimum. I refer to the way in which Thomas’s account of the human good actually ﬁts your inclinationes naturales—your experiences of the human goods. This is how the natural law develops. in which the question of whether man has a nature to be discovered. and the type of community that results ﬁts your inclinationes naturales assumes precisely what Thomas assumed: reason can be brought to bear on nature. but left him with reason. If we are fortunate. so that we might come to see what we have learned by sharing it with others. The Fall robbed man of grace. That is. the storytelling will continue until a tentative. The Fall corrupted reason itself. rendering reason arrogant and self-satisﬁed. Ours is not an incomplete world yearning for completion. always temporary. The ﬁrst is given by the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1988).” Why refer to our knowledge of the natural law in terms of narrative. Nevertheless. that is too easy. as they might be called. not reason? There are several reasons. collective version is agreed upon. misericordia.
it also creates new possibilities. as my story about the local school board in chapter 1 reveals. but place a greater emphasis on joint activities and shared conversations. there are several—indeed. for instead of one original natural experience. and shared work needed to transform healthy inclinationes naturales into a caring and imaginative basis for the natural law. One hopes that the cultivation and tutoring of a community’s intuitions by means of conversations. not only when the community shares a perverse disposition (the German robbers).. The process doesn’t always work right. Today. I do not disagree. and that they are roughly as Thomas described: basic intuitions about right and wrong that can generally (not always) be relied upon. narrative seems the appropriate language to talk about reason. the following stories: The warrior for a just cause The committed husband and family man The committed wife and mother The man or woman who sacriﬁces everything for his or her art. However.Thomas Aquinas 45 is a tragic world. Richard Rorty (1989. and bogus absolutes. especially when they are subject to the discussion of the community.g. has great conﬁdence in the ability of novels to shape the empathic imagination. These strategies are not antithetical. stories. This is bad insofar as it renders our culture less conducive to the collective conversation. ﬁlled with arrogance. we live in a world far more removed from the original natural experience than in the medieval world of Thomas’s day. Consider. for example. 2001). as we shall see in a subsequent chapter. stories. The use of narrative that I have practiced assumes that inclinationes naturales exist. Habitat for Humanity) would foster a more caring and imaginative society as well. In addition to a certain skepticism about reason per se. or science . almost too many—competing experiences of the good life for men and/or women. but also when it is demoralized. and shared work directed toward the common good (e. false eternals.
now that I think of it.” This intellectual strategy. Natural law is known through our inclinationes naturales. I recognize myself in that story. aspects of my experience don’t ﬁt the natural law. which would not be surprising given that they are the substance of the natural law. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw One who suffers discrimination and responds by creating a community of dignity with others The secular or religious saint In light of this cultural caravanserai. Notice the role played by narrative in this account. Even if our inclinations are at bottom identical. Natural law can become a cover for domination even with the best intent. so I’m not sure what to do or say. I just didn’t realize we were talking about the natural law. “No. as Thomas calls them. N at u r e . is the way in which discourse makes these inclinations available to different communities. friends. These others include family. It is not good when my narrative of the natural law speaks over yours. Maritain 1951. As we shall see in the next chapter. the most persuasive approach is to tell stories that bring together different experiences so that someone might come to say. 11. Edmund Burke illustrates one of these ways. including less powerful communities. Narrative is how we make these inclinations consciously present to ourselves. Narrative does not discover the natural law. community. so that they might have a say in the formulation of our inclinations. respects the leading characteristic of the natural law: that we possess it even before we know it. Important.” Or. Jacques Maritain came to rely on Thomas in arguing that sometimes the fellowship and peace of the community are more important than whether the community adheres to the details of the natural law. It also respects the intelligence and dignity of those it would convince.46 N a r r at i v e . . inclinations may take different narrative form. and so subject to discourse with others. for that is what it is. “Yes. particularly as we enter into a global world (or rather. a point made explicitly by Thomas (ST II–II 10. But I still value these aspects. 169). and history. become more aware that we are already there).
but who could see almost no difference between natural law and the ancient practices of his own society. The school board discussed in chapter 1 suggests another way in which domination may be veiled: when cultural relativism leads to the demoralization of the powerful. If we don’t do so. then we are at risk of ending up like Edmund Burke. we will translate our inclinations into different stories depending upon our circumstances. .Thomas Aquinas 47 in which the ancient order is assumed to be tantamount to the natural order. a man genuinely committed to the application of natural law to all peoples. who become morally paralyzed when confronted with indigenous cultures abusing their own. Inclination doesn’t speak in a single voice. those arrangements touched upon by the natural law. This from a man who understood and condemned colonial domination. Even if our inclinations are identical (another way of saying that every heart is inscribed with the same natural law). A proper interpretation of the natural law for this time and place will make room for the narratives (inclinations put into words) of all those affected by the basic arrangements of society—that is. even as it speaks to all.
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but in Bergson’s. In Bergson’s lectures they heard the kernel of the message they had been waiting for. Jacques and Raïssa married on November 26. Interesting and important is how Maritain came to Thomas and the natural law. For they understood him to say. They found it ﬁrst not in Thomas’s teachings. As the new school year of 1901–1902 began. Indeed. but a faculty that he called intuition that was opposed to the intellect and its concepts. Jacques Maritain is the twentieth century’s most wellknown Thomist. know what is. “that we could truly. their search was rewarded when they crossed the street from the Sorbonne to the Collège de France to hear Henri Bergson lecture.1 .” Bergson was speaking not of intelligence or reason. his ﬁancée. as Raïssa Maritain (1947) put it. had decided to kill themselves if they could not ﬁnd a deﬁnite answer to the meaning of life. absolutely. through listening to Henri Bergson’s lectures on phenomenology. the story goes that Maritain and Raïssa. 1904. Maritain would not deny the afﬁliation.Chapter 3 M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw Once called the “Red Christian” for his leftist leanings in later years. While he might quarrel with the “most well known” description for the sake of modesty.
by intuition and not by simple analysis. which we all seize from within. and while he remains more “Bergsonian” than many natural law theorists would admit. . What is relative is the symbolic knowledge by pre-existing concepts. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Presumably Bergson lectured about what he published in 1903. Maritain did not stop there. . . much of what Maritain has to say about intuition and the natural law is valuable in its own right. . at least. such as “I feel sad” or “I feel happy.” but extending no further than the self. There is one reality. This intuition attains the absolute. Maritain devoted much of his efforts to the important task of moving from intuition to objective world and back again. enriching the subject. and whose experience is valuable. and need not be attributed to Thomas in order to give it the sanction of the Angelic Doctor. and not the intuitive knowledge which installs itself in that which is moving and adopts the very life of things. . It is our own personality in its ﬂowing through time—our self which endures . The experiencing subject is not all there is. . Not every interpreter of Maritain would emphasize the inﬂuence of phenomenology as much as I. . some of Maritain’s most well-known statements about the natural law reﬂect the inﬂuence of Bergson. In fact. (Bergson 1955. in which it was argued that Maritain (1951. Maritain is best understood as combining Bergson with classical realism.50 N a r r at i v e . natural law would be composed solely of intuition. Nevertheless. By intuition is meant the kind of intellectual sympathy by which one places oneself within an object in order to coincide with what is unique in it and consequently inexpressible . 9–11) Had Maritain stopped with Bergson. or at least of Thomas Aquinas as read through Bergson. which proceeds from the ﬁxed to the moving. a type of innate knowledge as indubitable as any feeling. The example of “inclination” was mentioned in the last chapter. N at u r e . the belief that one can have genuine access to the things (sometimes called being) of this world. that one could ﬁnd an absolute nonrational type of knowledge through intuition. There is something exterior to the subject that is real to be experienced.
by my agency. Hawthorne’s prose captures the poetic attitude toward the world that Maritain would embrace. After witnessing the loss of the world in abstraction. though precisely how humans share in divine Providence differs between Thomas and Maritain. They were real and tangible existences. John Hittinger has a lovely quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne about some summer squash he planted. and there is no point in pretending they are in order to suggest a dubious continuity with Thomas. A new substance was born into the world. 94. Poetry is the intuition of (everyday) being. which the mind could seize hold of and rejoice in. For Maritain. The pull of a medieval resacralized world was strong. hard struggle to embrace the twentieth century. 2). but not as strong as his fear of a new pagan order unleashed by Hitler and Stalin. but it exists at the level of shared metaphysical realism. God’s presence in history. . They are not the same.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 51 90–92) transforms what is for Thomas the medium of the natural law into the intuition by which we know it (ST I–II. Hawthorne surely has the germ of Maritain’s intuition of being in this appreciation of squash’s “victorious thrust over nothingness”. good poetry takes the existence of people and things seriously. While not technically poetry. Gazing at them. The continuity between Maritain and Thomas is real. something worthwhile living for had been done. . it was a long. as well as a shared belief in Providence. Contrary to a certain stereotype. . and toward the shared world of people and things. Hawthorne . given its frequent emphasis on feeling) steers us away from the inner-world. Maritain is the theorist who makes natural law and a version of pluralist democracy compatible. Poetry Maritain was fascinated with poetry because poetry (perhaps surprisingly. Hittinger continues. I felt that.
a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw attends to the lowly squash and savors the glory of its being. Maritain (1955a) writes that the poet’s . the artist has an intensiﬁed sensitivity to the world. even though he or she does not understand virtue. but his tone is different. the more deeply it becomes conscious also of its power to know. . (Maritain 1944. That is poetic experience or poetic knowledge. who famously held that the artists’ access to the truth was third-order. knowledge is the knowledge of the artist. but he does so via abstract universals. it draws near to the sources of being. sporadic. Maritain’s realism does not deny abstract universals. In a related fashion. and of the mysterious movement by which . . The uneducated person may be virtuous. would be delighted to have these prophetic poets return us to the savor of being as they call forth that intuition.52 N a r r at i v e . The more deeply poetry becomes conscious of itself. . Maritain believes that the true artist possesses an insight into the truth of the object. Differing with Plato in the Republic. much as Thomas held that the uneducated person may be virtuous. . Maritain involves the experiencing subject directly in the world. Maritain. and unreliable. for example. 3). where subjectivity is not grasped as an object but as a source . as are his examples. who would conﬁne knowledge to the experiencing self. In The Situation of Poetry. . such as Hawthorne’s squash. For Maritain. 210–211)2 Whereas Bergson understands the intuition of being as the experience of the subject experiencing the world. which is best deﬁned as the simple and wondrous things of the world. because he or she intuitively knows the right thing to do through the faculty of connaturality (ST I. 6. Maritain would send the experiencing self into the world. I think. (Hittinger 2002. 387) Unlike Bergson. N at u r e . where it is enriched by an encounter with being. whose little piece of truth he or she grasps through a connatural union with the art object. Thomas also turns us toward the world.
trusting that my story brings together your intuitions about the good life better than another. Kai Nielsen (1988. 22) called after-knowledge. by encouraging us to encounter the reality of the world with the same immediacy with which Bergson would have us encounter the reality of the self. Not proof. . This is incorrect. proposition 7) says we must keep silent. 90). but which is rather experience than knowledge. but would enrich the poet. including the poet in us all.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 53 Intuition is an obscure grasping of the self and things together in a knowledge by union or by connaturality which is not completed .” For Maritain (2001. the fact that natural law is known through inclination means that “the precepts of Natural Law are known in an undemonstrable manner. philosophical proof is impossible. . but considered reﬂection—what is ordinarily called reason—is the proper human goal. . the type of thing about which Ludwig Wittgenstein (2007. As argued in the chapter on Thomas. we can compare narratives. In doing this I am bringing narrative to bear on your inclinationes naturales. . “Moral philosophy is reﬂective knowledge. 212) says that to treat knowledge of the natural law as akin to poetry is to “retreat into a kind of obscurity that makes philosophical appraisal impossible. and knowledge which is not expressible in ideas and in judgments. (51) Restated somewhat more trenchantly. about such matters as the natural law.” It’s not knowledge. Expressed another way. 21). Maritain not only acknowledges the inﬂuences of the greater world on the poet’s subjectivity. Maritain (2001. Maritain writes in Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry that “the content of poetic intuition is both the reality of the things of the world and the subjectivity of the poet” (Maritain 1955b. except in the work . Here is knowledge that is different enough from what we commonly called knowledge. . but something else. a sort of after-knowledge.” The fact that men and women are unable to rationally justify their most fundamental moral beliefs is evidence not of the . in which I try to show you that my favorite narrative is a more compelling account of life as it is and should be lived than another. What I call considered reﬂection.
Maritain writes of l’amour fou. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw irrationality of their beliefs. limitless love. rather than idealizing that Christian love generally rendered as agape. Maritain was not so concerned.54 N a r r at i v e . after-knowledge may itself become part of a pluralistic. in which I give myself wholly and completely to the other . About the details of the natural law. it is evidence “of their essential naturality and therefore of their greater validity. and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–41). a development that may be understood in a couple of ways. His respect for “after-knowledge” grew too. L’amour fou means quite literally “mad love. and the connatural way it is known. Maritain means something only a little different—a type of boundless. N at u r e . democratic process. he never questioned or wavered. More on that shortly. a mild brotherly love. as well as whenever we look back over time in order to see if our inclinations are to be trusted. Love Love and friendship are the highest things in human life. subject our connatural intuitions to rational principles. on the contrary. There is something both wonderful and frightening in Maritain’s conﬁdence. This is the implication of Man and the State (1951). but about the existence of the natural law. The “after-knowledge” of the natural law comes in whenever we try to systematize natural law—that is. First. For now. Second. it required that he reinterpret his characteristic doctrine of personalism. let us devote ourselves to love. Agape is the term Christ uses for love when he summarizes the Ten Commandments as love God with all your heart. but. drawn to one’s beloved as a moth to a ﬂame. and of their more than human rationality” (Maritain 2001. After-knowledge also comes into play whenever we discuss the natural law with others. In particular. However. as we should.” and translated from everyday French into everyday English might best be rendered as crazy with love. Maritain’s own after-knowledge about how to locate natural law in a world that had moved from Saint Thomas to Hitler to the Cold War required both intellectual and moral development on his part. according to Maritain. 21).
In love. and in some remarkable way become more myself than I was before (Maritain 1984. love has the status that classical realism would accord to its objects. Someone might argue that the feeling of having abandoned the self. says Maritain. but also in close friendships. Love longs for union. for there would be no other left to love. but also some people.. Furthermore. having an affair while married). “it is the very person of the lover which is the Gift” (Maritain 1984. it is part of the “ontological perfection of nature” (Maritain 1984. The fact that love is part of the “ontological perfection of nature” is ironic. 222–224). This includes such obviously unworthy candidates as money. for Maritain believes that most failures in life— certainly the most severe. . I have not lost. only to have become more oneself than ever before. In love I abandon myself. but lives on separation and difference. for if we think about the objects of realism as relationships between objects. . Or as Maritain puts it. within a life . somehow I continue to remain whole. but gained. betraying a friend. 223–224). if I had. for humans are frail and driven creatures. as in “that’s only your endorphins talking. I have abandoned myself to the other. lasting. dimension. boundless love can radiate within a life morally upright and submissive to the order of charity. for while in love I give myself to the other. and painful failures—are those of love. I suppose. liable to love whom they will) risk being transformed into idols if our love is not expressed within the framework of a community whose members care for each other as friends.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 55 person with nothing left over for myself. It can likewise radiate . but not become the other. resides the great mystery of love. even those who are worthy of our love (and this includes most people. but that is reality in another. has the quality of an illusion. In other words. then what relationship is more real and intense than love? Gravity. albeit equally real. Love is not something we create. then love would be pointless. or loving someone or something that is not truly worthy of our love. Generally. Love is something we discover. This makes sense. Here. 221). “[H]uman mad. these failures take the form of loving wrongly (e.g.” Maritain would disagree.
Maritain. Dunaway 2002. thus satisfying my need for poetry better than generally do the literal translations. Unfortunately. It is said that on his deathbed. this transformation is ﬁtting. a sublime poem of love. Four times he renders comparisons between love and wine as comparisons between caresses and intoxication. As far as what it brings to the ear. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw of sin” (Maritain 1984. Thomas means not merely the immediate knowledge of the right thing to do. to do the right thing. no transcription of this teaching survives (almost all Thomas’s teachings were transcribed. his great contribution is to have transformed Thomas’s notion of connatural knowledge into creative love.4 A remarkable aspect of the “translation” is the way in which it renders love more physical. he said he wanted a French version that ﬁlled two needs.3 In most cases. N at u r e . By connaturality. I wanted its prophetically Christian meaning to appear explicitly and markedly enough to satisfy me in prayer. but the habit of wanting. Saint Thomas taught about Solomon’s Song of Songs. once the intoxication of mad wine (“Le Cantique des cantiques. the community within which one loves will make the difference. as was the custom.56 N a r r at i v e . As far as it brings to the spirit. 2:5). continuous thrust. in its incomparable beauty. One is reminded here of Aristotle on virtue (one is truly virtuous . for it is in accord with the meaning of the term given by Thomas. 224).” 1:2. he dictated to scribes). Unlike some of his other “transformations” of Thomas. even loving. Maritain’s approach to the Song of Songs epitomizes the role of insight over discursive knowledge in his approach to the natural law. I wanted it to appear to me in the form of a French poem that would spring from a single. Instead. One might call it a translation. Five times Maritain translates what in the English language versions is usually described simply as “love. Indeed.” as “caresses” (Le Cantique des cantiques. 320–321). the twentieth century’s greatest student of Thomas. wrote the last chapter of his last book on the Song of Songs. except that Maritain read no Hebrew. More on this point later in the chapter.
but since Maritain is the twentieth century’s most important Thomist. Instead. .” a relationship that retains the quality of a social contract. to be left to itself. 41). and Maritain places love at the very center of his teaching. This is the great creative act that almost all are capable of. it is hard to see how Niebuhr could fail to see in Maritain anything but the fulﬁllment of Niebuhr’s own claim that “nothing short of a complete love in which each life afﬁrms the interests of the other” is the fulﬁllment of human freedom in natural law (Niebuhr 1998. like love. Eros. When we feel this love. our efforts. Eros and evil Sigmund Freud (1930. 224). but an examination of the text reveals that Thomas has the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in mind (ST I–II. by the way. lovers would possess each other. In the same way. we see that Reinhold Niebuhr is mistaken in arguing that what he calls the Catholic teaching on natural law fails to grant sufﬁcient primacy to love over justice (1988. proceeds from a spontaneous instinct. 108–110) believed that romantic love. Suto 2004). our longing. Here. Not about the details. 244).5 But since the natural law is not about details. Through love and friendship we develop the capacities to creatively give the gift of ourselves. love is often enough to see us through. wanted privacy. 2. leaving nothing left over for the world. Maritain holds that human love. we cultivate our knowledge of the natural law through love and friendship.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 57 only when doing the right thing is easy and pleasurable). then knowing and following the natural law is easy. and so move beyond “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. our caring as the gift we give to others. for as Emmanuel Levinas (1969) has taught us. we come to see ourselves. and never be able to provide it. In the intensity of their love. and must be cultivated like friendship” (Maritain 1974. but about the basics. “Thus art. He is referring speciﬁcally to Thomas. 45. even l’amour fou. ideally takes place within a human community that includes the love of God. we shall never know exactly what the other needs.
Freud sets the Todestrieb. Freud speculated that in the end the individual seeks his or her own death.58 N a r r at i v e . (Dunaway 2002. However. as his father’s son. Yet. always devising tricks to get what he wants (Symposium 203b–e). to give of itself. community. foster children. Eros is bold. Socrates’ mythical account of the parents of Eros captures this selﬁshness perfectly. Eros is hard. for Maritain. clever. but not before inﬂicting death and destruction on others. the death drive. N at u r e . they are similar in an important respect. Nevertheless. and culture in all its forms are the product of Eros. to love.6 While Maritain posits no death drive. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Knowing our friends. For this reason. L’amour fou lacks the selﬁshness of Eros that has been its hallmark since Plato. and far from being sensitive and beautiful. Repressed by culture and civilization. 222) interesting term suggests not so much a loss of self. forge human links. or even perceptive interpreters. Eros too is the builder of culture and civilizations. taking after his mother. it wants to build the world. Children. family. Not to possess what it does not have. which seeks destruction. Eros is always poor. he understands that . there is a difference. is creative. Contrivance (poros) his father. Maritain’s (1984. In a controversial claim. and homeless. for in its madness. our spouses. a not entirely happy prospect (for which Freud coined the term “the discontent of civilization”). Against Eros. but a loss of selﬁshness in love. communities. painters. Poverty (penia) is his mother. The madness that l’amour fou shares with Eros is the experience that abandonment of the self brings—a loss that in the end is a gain. all that it could ever need: a human way to ﬁnd relief from solitude in alienating itself. or our Redeemer activates the connatural mode of knowledge that also enables us to imitate the Divine Artist as poets. society. if Eros and l’amour fou are not identical. composers. shoeless. Maritain’s l’amour fou is simply mad: mad to create. the terrible sense of incompleteness. weather-beaten. 322) Love. he schemes to get what is beautiful. ﬁnding fulﬁllment only in possessive union with one’s beloved. it has all it wants.
as the teaching is known. human goodness remains “joined to a swarming multiplication of particular evils that is the very mystery and the very motive power of struggle and progression in mankind” (Maritain 1952. reveals him to be a thinker of profound importance. as he must. 132–133). Maritain’s understanding of the dark side of history. To talk about mad love without taking into account the madness of evil would be to live in a monastery. while remaining in a fundamental sense social. “the devil hangs like a vampire on the side of history. Not surprisingly. Personalism Maritain is a political thinker. the devil will contend with Christ for the history of the world. the end of an age that began with the fall of Rome. but the devil will have his due. and “not without losses. nonetheless. and goes on with the vampire” (Maritain 1957. personalists make a big distinction between personalism and bourgeois individualism (Amato 1975). personalism means that the human person possesses some measure of wholeness and independence.7 It is a vampire we shall never be rid of. For Maritain.8 .” In other words. More on this point later. The consequence is that human rights don’t come from states. a devil the natural law must come to terms with. 136). and hence dignity. His remarks about the devil hanging like a vampire on the train of history came in the wake of the Second World War. History goes on. Maritain was a man of the world. In this temporal world. prior to any involvement in society. Human rights come from natural law and are expressed in a personalism that respects individuality without idealizing it. and of the claim this ominous reality makes on the natural law.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 59 history is providential only from the perspective of eternity. As Maritain writes elsewhere. Christ will win. and his mature political philosophy was expressed in terms of personalism. which he experienced as the fall of a civilization. But personalism came to mean something quite different for Maritain after the Second World War than before. or politics.
Another way to deﬁne personalism is in terms of the ironic consequence of bourgeois individualism. what once was called soul. The relativization of all moral norms. the crisis of authority. their consumption. Given its fatal incorrigibility. communalist. the reduction of life to the pursuit of immediate material gain without regard for its general consequences—the very things Western democracy is most criticized for—do not originate in democracy but in that which modern man has lost: his transcendental anchor. Since the Renaissance.60 N a r r at i v e . . knowledge. or theist. . but fears for the loss of human mystery. which include the pressure of material circumstances. but the argument is different. such as Marxism. either through their labor. If you can imagine quite what that looks like. . personalism regards individuals as having rights. claiming only that men and women are not reducible to it. Though he has nowhere identiﬁed himself as a personalist (as far as I know). et cetera. but on people and their particular moral situations. as these rights stem from seeing each individual as the incarnation of God. rights. you have a better imagination than I. generating a social ideal that respects individuals without being individualistic. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Much as liberal or bourgeois individualism does. or their biochemistry. As with most utopias. Maritain was clear that the distance between liberalism and personalism was shorter than the distance between personalism and any of the other available options. pluralist. Personalism does not deny material reality. which embraces individualism and democracy. and the social criticism that stems from personalism asks us to focus not on ideologies. Personalism is utopian. In any case. N at u r e . the individual has become the autonomous center of freedom. But this tears people from . and along with it the only genuine source of his responsibility and self-respect . personalism is most useful in generating social criticism. humanity probably will have to go through many more Rwandas and Chernobyls before it understands how unbelievably shortsighted a human being can be who has forgotten that he is not God. the political thought of Václav Havel (1995) is consistent with personalism. ethics.
and money. all he must do. not the person. according to Luther. . lead us to claim for our intelligence the perfect autonomy and the perfect immanence.” says Maritain (1929. Descartes. and that the mind is disembodied from the person. “In the person of Luther and his doctrine. could only . man’s reason is useless. The result of a usurpation of the angelic privileges. Luther creates the solitary individual. and he does so as an individual. we are present .” He assumes that men and women can know as Thomas held that angels could know. who saves himself through will. All man can do. This process is explained in Maritain’s (1929) Three Reformers: Luther. the subjective individual. through direct. and collective forces generally. Because humans. . which is inherent in the thinking subject. But the burden is too much. Other errors associated with “angelism” are the assumptions that man’s ﬁrst object of knowledge is his own mind (contrast this view with Thomistic realism). Rousseau. and the person from his or her place in the world. 18). his condemnation of the modern world. . . ideology. Descartes commits the epistemological error of “angelism. Such a creature will prove too weak against the simultaneously atomizing and collectivizing forces of the modern world. but are entirely dependent on faith. standing in a singular relationship to God’s grace. his creativity pointless. the denaturing of human reason driven beyond the limits of its species . . more natural communities. the absolute independence. such as society. leaving them materially and spiritually vulnerable to the imposition of collective forms of society. is give himself over to faith. have no capacity for self-reformation. from the French Revolution to totalitarianism. . as both the individual and the Church come to stand naked before the state.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 61 their older. . unmediated comprehension. In a word. a condemnation that he would later lift to some degree. and independent of the society and community in which he or she exists. the aseity [underived or independent existence] of the uncreated intelligence. at the Advent of the Self. Luther isolates the deracinated individual before his God.
62 N a r r at i v e . 69). space. (Maritain 1929. it remains the secret principle of the break-up of our culture and of the disease of which the apostate West seems determined to die. which had vitiated all political thought since the Renaissance” (Amato 1975. On the other hand. Kant was the socialistic formulator. religion. pridefully and unwittingly builds his own hell. and creates a nature that seems to have that old metaphysical status of an ideal. as in parts of the First Discourse. . 67) Rousseau frees man from sin and conscience. . Rousseau comes to see the social contract as having no connection to nature. . To be sure. devoid of any real metaphysical sense. but is actually just empirical: man as he is. Modern thought was becoming narcissistically bound to a single way of looking at being. this “anthropocentrism” was the central evil of modern history. and that the birth of civil law is the destruction of natural law” (Maritain 1929. and the eighteenth-century philosophes such as Descartes gave anthropocentrism its full theoretical statement. . Furthermore. All conditions of human ﬁnitude—time. utterly alone. . values and science. Bolsheviks and Republicans were in varying degrees one in seeking to erect the city of man. and the future. matter. the will of man. as though being were the mirror of the mind. N at u r e . (Amato 1975. . but the origins lie much deeper . Rousseau sometimes employed a classical notion of nature that refers to the essence and end of man’s being. produced in all of Rousseau’s thought those fundamental confusions between metaphysics and naturalism. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Of that claim. “Hence it follows that the ﬁrst author of society is . . and nature— became enemies of humanity: everything must be brought under man’s dominance—society. For Maritain. “This equivocal use of the concept of nature . 133). state. Rousseau generally used the concept of nature as a strictly naturalistic trope to describe man’s actual material and historical situation. a city in which man. 79–81) Descartes led modern men and women to see nature as no more than a set of essences that conform to his reason.
the One whose existence reminds us that humanity is not the center of its own existence. and humans seem quite capable of inﬂicting it gratuitously. Justice. destroyed man’s natural and spiritual ties with other men. a point Maritain eventually came to concede. In the Western democracies. the absurdity faced by Raïssa is not the worst thing. Mounier was not Maritain’s student. 69) In fact. not everything is meaningful.10 . Individualism. Maritain 1961. and ideology. Or as Raïssa Maritain reﬂected. founder and editor of the journal Esprit from 1932 to 1950. One could put it even more strongly. (A generation younger than Maritain. the intoxication of destruction.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 63 Maritain sees in Rousseau the culmination of a dangerous dialectic between individualism and collectivism begun in the last ﬁve centuries of the modern world. resacralizing the temporal order.” (R. “I would have accepted a sad life. It is one of the leading vampires of history.9 The goal of both Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier. dead order and a stillborn new world. Absurdity. The risk is the absurdity engendered by the iron cage. today we live between the old. which seems to have seized Heinrich Himmler and other Nazi leaders as the goal of destroying an entire people came within their grasp. 109–111) refers to the Rausch. and Rousseau. One has to be able to tolerate some absurdity in this world. accepting new forms of democratic pluralism. unable to break free without the God to whom Havel refers. leaving him defenseless against the new collectivisms of state. economics. and meaning cannot be found in everything. society.) It won’t happen. in which the last remnant of myth and magic have vanished. Descartes. but was deeply inﬂuenced by him. which began with the French Revolution. Absurd cruelty is the worst thing. and Knowledge The risk in the West isn’t just Max Weber’s (1958) iron cage of icy polar darkness and night. spiritually created by Luther. was to remake the Renaissance. a totally rationalized world. Saul Friedländer (1993. but not one that was absurd.
105–110)? William Blake was not kidding when he said that Satan gets all the best lines in Paradise Lost. the Holocaust did bring something new to our knowledge of evil. One of the purposes of the natural law is to tell us a story about a good. The basic charge was the third-class fare: 4 pfennig per track kilometer. This absurdity is best addressed by natural law. Is this not what Milton’s Satan meant when he said simply. has a long history. .64 N a r r at i v e . For the deportees one-way fare was payable. By the term “narrative source of meaning. those under four went free . the evil of the Holocaust is signiﬁcant not only (and this would be enough) because of its scale. however one would have it) + Max Weber + Kafka = the absurd horror of the modern world. “Evil be thou my Good” (Paradise Lost IV. This is captured in Raul Hilberg’s (1985) account of the German railways’ (Reichsbahn) schedule of fares to bring “passengers” to the concentration camps. and hence meaningful. the fact that he destroyed them out of the sheer pleasure in destruction bothered Saint Augustine for years (Confessions II. N at u r e . Though it was pears and not people that he destroyed. just as evil may be attractive.11 To be sure. human life. Children under 10 were transported for half this amount. but because of its rationalization. “Evil be thou my Good” means .” I refer to a story about the sources of human goodness.9). a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Pleasure in destruction. understood not as a rational bulwark against absurdity. (411) How best to characterize such rational absurdity but with an equation? The devil (or Freud’s Todestrieb. a rationalization that in many respects was only apparent. . in destroying the innocent and good because it is innocent and good.III. for the guards a round-trip ticket had to be purchased. but as a narrative source of meaning to set against the absurd cruelty that threatens to make mincemeat of the meaning of our lives. and that should be cause for deep concern. Satan is often an attractive ﬁgure. so that we have some measure of how far humans can lose their way in misbegotten search of this ideal. . More precisely put. as well as the evils that threaten this goodness.
and that Calley and his men were scapegoats for a failed war and failed military leadership (Olson and Roberts 1998). which is how Immanuel Kant deﬁnes radical evil. The moral order is restored not by explanation. totally out of proportion to the evil and horror of the world? Such acts need not.e. this ﬁts one of Albert Camus’ (1955. Do not such acts render any claim to a moral order absurd—that is.12 Natural law also leaves us with some markers—cairns along the path—showing us the way back to the good. even mass murder. Much instrumental cruelty involves means so disproportionate to the ends. What does absurdity contribute? Not so much the desperate need for explanation. although Camus does not mention it. or chooses not to do it. but also absurd. Certainly. also exists. so dehumanized). . but instrumental..13 What requires explanation is not the act itself (which can be explained in psychological. poor training and discipline. And. and no one thinks it does.” Absurdity arises in this case from the disproportion between a man’s intention and the reality he encounters. 29) deﬁnitions of the absurd: “If I see a man armed only with a sword attack a group of machine guns. But there is something about atrocity on a horrendous scale that mocks the moral order. one must conclude that the absurdity works in both directions. victims so irrelevant to the ends (i. and children at My Lai in Vietnam by U. does not render the civil law against murder absurd.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 65 not simply that one has forgotten the good. I shall call their act not only evil and cruel. and perhaps as many as 500 old men. Among the explanations are the stress of combat. Consider the many explanations offered for the murder and mutilation of over 300. women. and not merely by narratives of right and wrong. I shall consider his act to be absurd. Cruelty that is not obviously absurd. or political terms). that the element of absurdity is not absent. but that one has confused evil with good. and goodness with one’s own will. troops under the command of Lieutenant William Calley in 1968. though these help.S. the fog of war. Calley’s low intelligence. If I see a group of men armed with machine guns attack and kill a group of civilians. sociological. Murder. but the place and meaning of such acts in a moral world. Lt.
human rights abusers are generally provided amnesty if they testify truthfully to their crimes. and material. is generally considered the model. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Through tribunals. Under the South African model. or courts of justice. such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In other words. and made their project historically irrelevant. they hoped for a new middle ages (Amato 1975. The achievement of a dozen such commissions has been mixed. The primary goal is to provide ofﬁcial evidence of past abuses. Humans do not call the natural law into existence with their acts. alleged crimes of the Bush administration. This was the core of their resacralization project. established after the fall of the white supremacist government to investigate years of government-sponsored terror. according to several studies (De La Rey and Owens 1998. “Truth and reconciliation commissions” are a relatively recent innovation in the attempt to realize the natural law in history. It is difﬁcult to make a generalization about their success. In March 2009. an easier task than reconciliation. or even how it might be measured. in order to establish a historical record as a resource against the forgetting or rewriting of history. by whatever name they are called. For all his utopian nostalgia . but not prosecute. political. Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative John Conyers of the United States called for a “truth commission” to investigate. human beings say to each other and future generations that the natural law (by whatever name it is called) exists. but without these judicial acts. risk causing a new world to become cynical about what its citizens believe. Hayner 2001). 146). Maritain’s and Mounier’s views were founded not on questions of peace and war. but on a hope for a world in which the sacred and religious would infuse and enlighten the world of everyday life—social. The events of the 1930s and 1940s stripped them of their utopian dreams. N at u r e . the new German robbers. in any case. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Also required are acts of justice and punishment that serve to at least partially restore the dignity and memory of those who were damaged and destroyed.14 Setting the historical record straight seems.66 N a r r at i v e .
42–49 [c. which is another way of saying that while Maritain continued to hold that a Christian view of life remained the sole inspiration capable of supporting personalist democracy. Hitler and Stalin had seen to that. Descartes. including liberalism. the United States versus the Soviet Union. but a critique that Maritain could draw on in order to retain some distance from the reigning “isms” of the day. of course. sees emancipation as freedom from nature. Maritain came to see the value of the human city. with which he never made his peace. was no more a philosophy of man and society. he argues. Only too late did the displaced bourgeoisie discover the truth. merely a description of resacralization). marked by the liberation of the individual from every form of traditional bondage. Still suspicious of the liberal democracies inspired by Locke. Rousseau. para. And here. a type of moral homelessness. which began joined to a nostalgic vision of the medieval world. Rousseau (1929). certainly not Germany in the age of Hitler. or the Soviet Union in the age of Stalin. The new freedom came with a terrible price—the terror of normlessness. democratic way of life. Is it reasonable to see Germany and the Soviet Union as part of bourgeois civilization? No. Maritain came to realize that the real choice was one of defending one part of bourgeois civilization against another: England against Germany. Maritain is at his best in critiquing the failure of the modern project. and Hegel. “Kant and Rousseau reject any measure or regulation derived from the world of nature because regulations originating from . as well as the broader need for a free. but both totalitarian regimes grew out of the crisis of bourgeois civilization. Modernity. Maritain was willing to take the modern world seriously. he would include Kant (2002. and perhaps many were not displeased to ﬁnd out.1. By the middle of the twentieth century. Personalism.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 67 (applied to Maritain. he came to see the value of liberal individualism. 5–8]) as modernity’s spokesman. This led to a willingness to accept new forms of bondage as though they were more benign than the old. as he does in Three Reformers: Luther. the term is not necessarily a criticism. at least compared with its real historical alternatives.
Intuition knows the objects of this experience. spouses. in both men. but not watertight. it embodies the principles of natural law in a way that is intuitive but not beyond words. not only a false conception of emancipation. a story about the actor’s place in the community of men and women. the actor would be able to explain what he did to himself. This is. though it knows that too. the distinction between knowledge and action is real. and with his or her community. What intuition knows is not just a feeling about the objects of natural law. as social. 99). I think the quintessential one is connatural knowledge.” as a collection of essays on his work puts it.” Connatural knowledge has the additional advantage of being that tangent where Maritain’s epistemology comes closest to Thomas. in this case people. This is a large part of what Maritain means by after-knowledge. but a false conception of human rights—that freedom must be based upon obedience to the self if it is to be truly free. a dialogue within the actor. but many believe that these intuitive ways of knowing are the heart of Maritain’s project. . The fact that an act is subject to the dialectic is a sign that it remains not so much rational. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw the natural order of things would destroy the autonomy and supreme dignity of the person” (Goodreau 2001. 322) states. As Taki Suto (2004. or to another. and love as the leading ways. 65) suggests. even if the actor required the help of another to draw the explanation out. Maritain is at his best in making sense of the natural law by combining Bergsonian intuition with a commitment to being in the world that transcends the subjective experience of being.68 N a r r at i v e . Maritain believes. children. It is a point he will return to again and again in Man and the State. while connaturality does not ask “why” at the moment of acting. be they neighbors. obligations. I am selective in emphasizing intuition. For. their relationships. such as right and wrong. Because of this fact. Maritain is a student of “many ways of knowing. friends. seen in the light of love and friendship. N at u r e . poetry. and duties. “Of the many modes of knowing that he so masterfully distinguished in order to unite. or even strangers. As Dunaway (2002.
and in one respect only. Applied to the state. difﬁcult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed. but by the natural law. such as the belief that whatever expresses the will of the people possesses the force of law. which grants people the right to govern themselves. Over and over. These are the proper tasks of the state. the key concept is not the state. possessing a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Applied to the people. to protect them against the privilege of class and other forms of concentrated power. “It is. they will soon develop the habit of subservience toward power. 172). But law is not made by the will of the people. For Maritain. it means absolutism. but in moral and representational signiﬁcance. having no legitimate interests of its own. devoting a page to Saul Alinsky quoting Alexis de Tocqueville to the effect that if people lose the habit of governing themselves in small matters. 48). indeed. but the body politic. what today we call civil society.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 69 Man and the State Based on lectures delivered at the University of Chicago in 1949—when Maritain had just ﬁnished his work with the UNESCO philosophers’ advisory group to the drafters of the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights— Man and the State is most notable for the limited role it would grant the state. But in other respects. Limited not so much in function. that it tends toward absolutism. By the time he wrote Man and the State. as well as from the tyrannies of other states (Maritain 1951. an association of associations. Maritain tells us that the state is dangerous. sovereignty can only mean something vicious. Over and over he tells us that the concept of state sovereignty—indeed of sovereignty itself— is vicious.”15 . In one respect. and limits the laws they may endorse (Maritain 1951. The people need the state for the sake of justice. the state is simply an instrument of the body politic. the state sits on top of these associations. Maritain had become relatively sophisticated about politics.
and of social experience. Though Maritain . we live in an age in which any thinking person must recognize that our access to the natural law is dependent upon the fact that we are social beings living in particular historical circumstances. Thomas’ views on the matter call for an historical approach and a philosophical enforcement of the idea of development that the Middle Ages were not equipped to carry into effect. the obscure. 91–92). While natural law is itself beyond history. imagining that in an ideal world the state would wither away. “[K]nowledge of the primordial aspects of natural law was ﬁrst expressed in social patterns rather than in personal judgments” (Maritain 1951. . “St. More precisely. He does so using Thomas’s own key concept of “the inclinationes of human nature . as its functions devolved among pluralistic autonomous associations after a long period of state capitalism or socialism (Maritain 1951. It is in and through history that connaturality is expressed and transformed in its expression. 92). a place where people can practice the virtues of self-government and social intercourse with a wide variety of people on a small scale. vital knowledge of connaturality” in history in order to render Thomas more historical (Maritain 1951. unsystematic. In drawing upon Alinsky and de Tocqueville as his guides for a pluralist democracy.” Maritain seems to be moving the locus of connaturality from the individual in community to the individual in community within historical time. Maritain recognizes Thomas’s irrelevance to the modern world unless one breaks from him. Maritain breaks from Thomas. as the preceding quote suggests. also. N at u r e .” With the odd term “philosophical enforcement. While natural law remains the same. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Today. of which man is capable in the various ages of his history” (Maritain 1951. Maritain does not reject that view. 94). . 27). most of those who write about civil society see it as an adjunct to big government. the better to choose their leaders (Putnam 2001). The difference is that Maritain is a utopian. our knowledge of it “develops in proportion to the degree of moral experience and self-reﬂection. Or as Maritain puts it.70 N a r r at i v e . Man and the State establishes the primacy of the social in the knowledge of the natural law.
But for millions of people to learn this required not just individual insight and intuition. 68–69) spends some time discussing Gandhi’s Satyagraha (the power of truth). Segregation was always against the natural law. often costly in terms of lives and dignity.) Against barbarism. comparing patience. While morality and natural law remain. was the ﬁrst to reclaim the justice that can only be obtained by struggle. Thomas could simply not imagine “what has been called l’univers concentrationnaire . with the ideals of Saint Thomas. a university in exile that was the center of Gaullist resistance in the United States. but the civil rights movement. Maritain recommends the tougher path of making moral judgments in difﬁcult cases with no clear guidance.” Maritain would understand that natural law is a potential that is actualized in history over time. legal decisions such as Brown vs Board of Education (1954). xxx) meant when he said that “genuine natural law. Maritain would understand what the Marxist theologian Ernst Bloch (1986. and the courage that endures. Maritain understands that sometimes violence is necessary. and the other that of abandoning morality altogether. for reasons stated by Martin Luther King Jr. and decades of experience. (Maritain played a leading role in founding the École Libre des Hautes Études. . sometimes there is very . On the other hand. One is the withdrawal into moral purity. such as the decisions faced by the French Resistance against the Nazis. It is a conclusion that teaches us something about inclination and narrative as well: their relationship is not simply one of contained and container. 72). the conclusion seems much the same. Consider the abolition of legal segregation in the United States. (chapter 1).16 Maritain criticizes two paths. .M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 71 does not employ the language of transforming inclination into shared narrative. which posits the free will in accord with reason. and sometimes only through human conﬂict. voluntary suffering. Maritain (1951. which need not always be violent. a nightmare of a society” (Maritain 1951. but of conﬂict and struggle. Indeed. violence is sometimes necessary. though his philosophical style does not ﬁt comfortably with this formulation.
N a r r at i v e , N at u r e , a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw
little in the way of shared social and historical experience to guide men and women who must make terrible choices, including killing some to save still others. But what else is there to do? Sometimes nothing, or rather doing nothing, is the worse choice (Maritain 1951, 72–75).17 While the social is primary, at least in ordinary times, in our knowledge of the natural law, neither society, nor the state, nor the often esteemed common good is the highest value for Maritain. For the “general will,” Maritain has nothing but fear and contempt. Neither is the individual the highest value, as we have seen in Maritain’s discussion of personalism. The common good
is lost if it is closed within itself, for, of its very nature, it is intended to foster the higher ends of the human person. The human person’s vocation to goods which transcend the political common good is embodied in the essence of the political common good. To ignore these truths is to sin simultaneously against both the human person and the political common good. Thus, even in the natural order, the common good of the body politic implies an intrinsic though indirect ordination to something which transcends it. (1951, 149)
The great advantage of this view is that politics, even the common good, can never become an end in itself, because the individual is not an end in him or herself, not even as he or she partakes of the common good. The supra-temporal good of the person, his or her eternal destiny, remains the highest good. The term “person,” in this context, always refers to an individual as family member, citizen, worker, and possessor of an immortal soul, whose fate is more precious than we can ever imagine. This is the legacy of personalism in Maritain’s later work. Viewing the person in these terms reveals that the state is not a mere holding company, far less a means, or vehicle of transcendence. Maritain is clear that since the loss of the res publica christiana of the Middle Ages, the unity between Church and body politic must take place within the unity of the human person (1951, 160–161). Of paramount importance is that the “internal springs of conscience” are uniﬁed in the
M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw
earthly city, and this comes about through their uniﬁcation in the human person: citizen, seeker after the common good, and human creature concerned with his or her eternal destiny. (Those who do not fall within this last category, and evidently Maritain does not expect it to be many, remain citizens in good standing.) There is nothing contradictory about these roles, as long as we remember the proper place of the state in facilitating all three. The state serves the person, the Church, and the quest of the soul for eternity by doing well the things states do best: the promotion of prosperity, the equitable distribution of the material things that are the support of human dignity, and the effective guarantee of a just and legal order. Justice, within the framework of what we would call the welfare state, is the proper contribution of the state to its citizens. For the state to do more, for the state to foster religion, can only threaten citizen and Church. Recall that Maritain is writing in the shadow of totalitarianism, which he regards as an idol, a “spurious God of the lawless Empire bending everything to his adoration” (1951, 187). Far from favoring the state sponsorship of religion, Maritain sees its overwhelming danger—the state always eager to extend its inﬂuence. Not a religious state, but a state religion, is how he would see their entanglement as likely to turn out. Yet it is not quite so simple as that for Maritain either. “The inspiration of the Gospel . . . passing into the sphere of temporal existence [is] the very soul, inner strength, and spiritual stronghold of democracy” (1951, 176). For it is Christian democracy, that is, a democracy fully aware of its own sources, that keeps alive the values of human dignity, equality, justice, and freedom. It is in this regard that Maritain is particularly excited about the relationship between Church and state in postwar America vis-à-vis secular Europe. “Sharp distinction and actual cooperation, that’s an historical treasure, the value of which a European is perhaps more prepared to appreciate, because of his own bitter experiences. Please to God that you keep it carefully, and do not let your concept of separation veer round to the European one” (1951, 183).
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Unfortunately, Maritain does not seem to fully understand the American experience, imagining, for example, that the U.S. Constitution is a “great political Christian document” (1951, 183–184). Though the religious beliefs of the founding fathers were diverse and complex, many are best described as Deists, proponents of a religious-philosophical view closely associated with the Enlightenment. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, referring frequently to “nature’s God.” So too was James Madison, the man most closely associated with the authorship of the Constitution. The other religious tradition running through the document of 1787 was a Puritan Calvinism, best captured by James Bryce’s (1995) comment that “someone has said that the American government and constitution are based on the theology of Calvin and the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. This at least is true that there is a hearty puritanism in the view of human nature which pervades the instrument of 1787. It is the work of men who believed in original sin . . . .” (306). This does not quite seem to be what Maritain had in mind. The cliché has it that Thomas baptized Aristotle, meaning that he accepted Aristotle’s view of man as containing an inborn nature that aims to unfold itself into a rich and full human being if given the proper direction and support. To Aristotle’s naturalism, Thomas added the supernaturalism of Christianity. Man’s ultimate telos concerns his eternal soul. But Thomas did not disembody that soul (the term used in the Greek Testament, pneuma, which also means the breath of life, suggests this), and neither does Maritain. The latter’s great achievement is to take Thomas’s vision and make it compatible with a pluralistic democratic politics. He does so by coming to understand the real, but limited, role of the state. This required that he ﬁrst develop a healthy fear of the state. He was at the right time and the right place to do so.
The Soul’s Freedom?
Maritain insists that the great error of modern thought, epitomized, but hardly begun, by Kant, is to insist that freedom
However. . all that is wrong in these thinkers culminates in Kant (Maritain 1929. in which human freedom is given its place. Maritain claims that “the notion of right is even more profound than that of moral obligation.1. Humans have rights. Descartes. Consider the following statement by Maritain. The human person possesses rights because of the very fact that it is a person . when pushed to their limit. were I my own legislator. . I possess freedom and dignity when I follow no other will but my own—that is. in which the self-determining character of the person (his or her autonomy) is the source of his or her dignity (Kant 2002. 65) To be sure. 42–49 [c. And yet some of what Maritain says about the soul could be read as a return to a type of Kantian individualism.18 Isn’t Maritain making two claims at once. For Kant. . (Maritain 1986. Maritain is quick to add that a person’s rights are balanced by his or her duties. must conﬂict? On the one hand. Furthermore. para. and consequently not merely a means to an end. The statements that Maritain makes to this effect are puzzling because behind Maritain’s criticism of Luther. Maritain starts out by claiming that the human person possesses rights . possesses rights. which he does not intend as criticism. Maritain sees human freedom and obligation as derived from the natural law. . . [What is] the dignity of the human person? The expression means nothing if it does not signify that by natural law. and is the subject of rights.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 75 requires humanity’s consent to nature. Humans do not have rights because humans have rights. 65). 5–8]). and Rousseau lies a critique of Kant. master of itself and its acts. but an end . the human person has the right to be respected. because they participate in an ideal larger order that we call the natural law. Indeed. On the other hand. and obligations. 4). claims that. which he sees as a reﬂection of God’s freedom in creation. when I freely consent to follow only those laws that I would rationally give to myself.” because freedom is as fundamental to man as to God (Maritain 1986. Maritain grounds both rights and duties in human autonomy.
N at u r e . It has done so because Maritain came to terms with the liberal democratic state. and music. Maritain assumes that relationships such as friendship and marriage inspire the connatural mode of knowledge. and share with God. Instead.76 N a r r at i v e . a quality we are granted by. one more spark that grants us access to the intuitive knowledge of the natural law. often signiﬁcantly. because personalism as a political philosophy (as opposed to a political sentiment) was a dead end. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw merely by virtue of being a person.” Akin to God. Recall Maritain’s identiﬁcation of creative love as the source of connaturality. such as the creativity required to bring a lost and lonely child out of its shell—the creativity of teachers and cultural workers of all kinds (Dunaway 2002. Kraynak’s criticism is extreme. and because Maritain’s experience with UNESCO philosophers who advised the drafters of the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights taught him that there really was universal agreement on the rights of man. because it is the mark of human autonomy and creativity. Indeed. that possessing rights is the mark of human dignity. is not talking about usurping the role of the Creator. Kraynak’s claim is extreme. 322). from the traditional forms of creativity known as art. one suspects that all good friendships are warmed by the creative adaptation of the partners to each other’s needs. it is clear. to the less traditional. Read in the context of Maritain’s work as a whole. and it is this knowledge that enables us to imitate the Divine Artist in all the ways that humans may be creative. Maritain seeks to blur the distinction in rank and to enhance the status of man by giving him personhood akin to God. . threads and sparks go together. Robert Kraynak (1998. Contrasting images. Glendon 2001). poetry. Maritain. because Hitler and Stalin gave him no other choice. on the reasoning behind these rights (Maritain 1951. but his insight remains valid: a modern conception of freedom has crept into Maritain’s politics. 77. even if the philosophers differed. 74) concludes that “unlike Thomas. but in this case. because creativity is the mark of Divine agency. he sees creativity as one more thread that binds the human world together.
but the experience Maritain gained working with scholars from all over the world. said Maritain (1951. in an oath that seems designed to reassure himself that it really is important to know. we agree about the rights but on the condition no one asks us why” (Glendon 2002. at the point of practical convergence of extremely different theoretical traditions. A common law natural law? The concept is neither absurd nor heretical. just as the general will is not redeemed because everybody happens to will the same thing. True enough. and ideologies could agree on a list of fundamental rights. beliefs. in practice fairly large. ﬁght against. including Asia.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 77 Common law natural law But. The agreement among the philosophers on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights constituted. with enough humor to take the edge off. But say it he did. where different philosophies and religions could agree in practice on what was always right and wrong. “Yes. a sort of unwritten common law. you say. this agreement was more than voting. and Latin America. Maritain says the man was told. even if Maritain seems to feel he has risked damnation to say it. For.”19 Not quite the natural law. seems to have convinced him that the philosophers had done more than merely vote. adds Maritain (1951. 78). This agreement represented that point of overlap. “And God keep me from saying that it is not important to know” which philosophical or religious justiﬁcation is right. it seems. what difference does this empirical fact of universal agreement make? The natural law is not redeemed by voting. there is this surprising practical streak in Maritain that he himself must. 77). How best to understand this common law natural law? One hint is provided by the Preamble to the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When a visitor to one meeting of the UNESCO philosophers’ committee that advised the Declaration drafting committee expressed amazement that men of such vastly different cultures. 78). a “grosso modo a sort of common residue. Africa. which refers to “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human .
but also that of the lesser evil. in the end Maritain’s vision came closer to this tradition than liberalism. About the basics. an application not only of the principle of pluralism. is the topic of chapter 5. with their emphasis on the family and their greater attention to duties. the goal is not to label Maritain’s position. by which he means the moral traditions and practices of the community. This is so even as Maritain’s emphasis on individual freedom means that the closeness of the dignitarian tradition to personalism must be qualiﬁed. In these documents. was less that of a liberal document. its failure to distinguish rights from utopian ideals in its later articles. the common law natural law is inviolate. The purpose of the Preamble. it turns out. was to establish an intellectual or philosophical perspective from which to understand the rights enumerated by the Declaration. Another aspect of Maritain’s practicality regarding the natural law is how much of the natural law he is willing to sacriﬁce in order to preserve the common good. . N at u r e .78 N a r r at i v e . Dignitarian rights instruments. In any case. according to its author. “civil legislation should adapt itself to the variety of moral creeds of the diverse spiritual lineages which essentially bear on the common good of the social body” (Maritain 1951. This is. About the details. and peace in the world” (Glendon 2002. Maritain continues. (Glendon 2002. To make his point. But no matter. justice. 169). That perspective. the vaunting ambition of the Universal Declaration. but to understand it. 11). rights bearers tend to be envisioned within families and communities. 227) Though the dignitarian tradition is not the same as personalism. Maritain draws upon Thomas (ST II–II 10. 310). who would tolerate the rites of the unfaithful. and more an expression of the dignitarian rights tradition of continental Europe and Latin America than the more individualistic documents of Anglo-American lineage. are more compatible with Asian and African traditions. René Cassin. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw family” as “the foundation of freedom.
Conversely. this process truly is. No matter how ﬂuent their mastery of Hangugeo (the Korean language). One reason is they are likely to be more creative. some argued. Sometimes. If Maritain has journeyed a long way from the medieval longings of personalism. My position was. When I was a Fulbright Scholar at a leading university in Seoul.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 79 To this Maritain adds juridical protection for disparate “ways of conceiving the meaning of life and modes of behavior. which is why it is good to have many perspectives around us. What has become clearer as Maritain’s work developed through midcentury is how shared. creating many margins. generally Westerners. a literary tradition that often implicitly assumes a conjunction between personal suffering and the historical suffering of the Korean people. either together or sequentially? The eventual outcome of . should be allowed to teach Korean literature. 169). so that we might invite their denizens to join us. I asked. that there were things about Korean literature that a non-Korean would never understand. a non-Korean could never truly understand Korean literature as a Korean would. the question arose as to whether non-Koreans. Not simply because diverse views contribute to a richer dialogue. Communities in which members tolerate and respect each other are in a better position to help each other know the natural law. teach Korean literature classes with both Korean and Western professors teaching each class. Why not. for many of the reasons theorists of diversity have been teaching us for several decades now (Parekh 2002).” lest the greater evil of fanaticism and civil strife afﬂict the community (Maritain 1951. there were things a Westerner educated in Korean language and literature would know on his or her ﬁrst day facing a class of Koreans that a Korean scholar would never know. but because the deepest insight is often held by those on the margins of mainstream society. Openness can be learned. the core insight of connaturality or intuition as the primary means of access to the natural law remains. but perspective can only be experienced. Korea. and is. or social. you have to stand on the outside to know the inside.
then perhaps premises are not as important as conclusions in thinking about the natural law. the feast of life. class. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw the debate was murky. for in the beginning it was hard to imagine what the consequences of these two forces might be for the natural law.” for if others could arrive at similar conclusions from vastly different premises. it is a good idea to invite people with diverse backgrounds to the table. less likely to reﬂect the prejudices of time. sex. or so Maritain seems to have believed. and even threatened Maritain. we understand that pluralism is the direction in which Maritain’s political work was leading since the Second World War.) For Maritain. a common enough occurrence in Korea. that pluralism and civil society are really the keys to his later work. So that our narratives about our inclinationes naturales are more likely to reﬂect the natural law. in the literal meaning of the term: sharing a feast together. N at u r e . the UNESCO commission advising the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights built no Tower of Babel. in which we are all hosts and guests. only to those colleges and universities that still care about transmitting the great tradition in the ﬁrst place. which will likely overlap as well as conﬂict with our own. place. connaturality is also conviviality. If. Or rather. of course. pluralism and civil society render the natural law more alive. The degree to which communities sharing very little in regard to philosophical and religious fundamentals are able. however. to agree upon a common law natural law seems to have surprised. but created instead a widespread consensus on the basics of human decency. race. then this result should not be surprising. only in retrospect is it surprising. Though they came from all over the world speaking different tongues. Far from rendering the natural law obsolete. while opening us to the possibility that the way we justify the natural law may . pleased.80 N a r r at i v e . and so forth. “Threatened. if there is goodwill on all sides. However. It is good to listen to and make a place for their stories. does the reader imagine that most colleges and universities in the United States would be enthusiastic about having their core courses in Western civilization co-taught by an imam?20 (I refer.
that it could? . as it was with Thomas. But did anyone really imagine that it worked any other way? Or rather. particularly when it becomes subject to the dialectic—the inﬂuence of others in dialogue over time. But this way of thinking was always with Maritain. It is simply hard to know what to do with connaturality.M a r i t a i n a n d t h e L ov e f o r t h e N at u r a l L aw 81 be less important than the fact that we feel it.
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The problem. . from the fact that there are lots of hungry people in the world. so that the original experience is not.1 Of course. if one assumes that humans view the world as a moral experience from the beginning of life. “there are hungry people” + “there is lots of extra food. at least the stated problem to which the new natural law is a solution. a point that is often overlooked. this is essentially Hume’s own position.Chapter 4 T h e N e w N at u r a l L aw a n d E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw For a group of philosophers today.” but “people are starving. I am not logically compelled to conclude anything. In fact. For instance. and the fact that there is lots of surplus food. as David Hume (1711–1776) pointed out. the solution is to lift natural law out of nature entirely. An unbridgeable gulf between statements of fact and statements of value exists. What I should do is a moral decision not determined by the facts alone. as an equation. I am not logically compelled to conclude that the hungry should get this food. is the desire to free natural law from “Hume’s Guillotine. I must do something.” as the difﬁculty is sometimes known. often called the philosophers of the new natural law. In fact.” then Hume’s problem does not appear in the ﬁrst place.
It is to this example that he refers when he states that “the general opinion of mankind has some authority in all cases. Hume is a moral sense theorist. Nor is it less infallible because men cannot distinctly explain the principles on which it is founded” (An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. v. which assumes that a moral sense provides guidance in much the same way as other senses. On the contrary. but not be able to explain it. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Hume objects to the attempt to derive “oughts” (or shouldstatements) from statements of empirical fact. avoid evil” (ST I–II 94. provide guidance. but it is itself too inarticulate. However. holding that our “ ‘oughts’ can indeed be reliably engendered by internal sentiments. 73). and without systematic content to be the natural law. the derivation of “ought” from “is” (even as Hume understood the limited place of this fallacy in the real . 2). It is the exemplary natural law theorist Thomas Aquinas who deﬁnes the prime principle of natural law as “do good. Indeed. that’s not quite right either. it is statements such as this that led Frederick Copleston (1959. Moral sense may be the foundation of the natural law. undeveloped. N at u r e . either the natural law has no content.” or the content of the natural law has no status in logic. One advantage of moral sense theory is that it explains how we may “know” that something is right or wrong. common to the majority of humankind” (Kainz 2004. the semantic equivalent of “all bachelors are unmarried. III. 9). Moral sense theory is a form of ethical intuitionism. such as revulsion against vicious tyrannies. For some of the new natural law theorists. such as John Finnis (1980) and Robert George (1999). true by virtue of the way we use the terms “good” and “evil.84 N a r r at i v e . such as sight. he believes that certain moral feelings. but in this [case] of morals it is perfectly infallible. 34) to portray Hume as a virtual natural law theorist. just as we may not be able to explain why something is ugly or beautiful. the statement is strictly analytic. being based almost entirely on Hume’s fallacy. 5. possess the status of moral certainties. Hume does not object to attempts to derive “oughts” from statements about feeling. 2.” Seen from this critical perspective.
one that neither a belief in God. or so Finnis and George argue. Turns out they generally agree on the same basic set of goods. If human nature were constructed roughly along the lines described by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. The approach of Finnis and George to the natural law is empirical. the freedom of the individual is preserved. and play are good in themselves. but health is a good in itself. but free agents who would naturally (selﬁshly) choose these goods for themselves. (These are. as we live in a secular and modern world. beauty. knowledge. friendship. similar to the goods chosen by Thomas. there would still exist no grounds to conclude that we “ought” to live according to this nature. are the subjects of the new natural law (George 1999.) For example. health. one is not committing the naturalistic fallacy in saying we ought to pursue them. but no developmental ideal remains. It takes what is said to be desirable as truly desirable. the new natural law seems ideally suited for a contemporary world that no longer believes in metanarratives. as they are sometimes called: big stories about right and wrong. nor in a world properly ordered by nature. Money is an instrumental good. good and bad ways to live . ought is created by the decision to observe certain values. nature is discovered. because these goods are not themselves moral values. 45). Goods in themselves do not require further justiﬁcation.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 85 world better than many who follow). we desire money in order to acquire things. of course. What’s the human good? Just ask people. Abandoned is the principle that some goods are more important and profound than others. Furthermore. No longer part of a big story. In any case. as when I resist my natural desire to murder the drunken man who carelessly ran over my child. Perhaps true nobility lies in defying our nature. The trouble with this approach is that not only is there no hierarchy among goods. Between these two realms there is a chasm. and because they are already values. the new natural law was born. In response to this criticism. People still talk and act as if goods such as life. but pre-moral. can bridge. Not enmeshed and obligated moral beings.
even if they do not always look so familiar when expressed in academic-speak.” to guide us in choosing among them. 51). in fact. In the absence of a “speculative philosophy of nature” by which to order the hierarchy among goods. This seems to be the position of the new natural law theorists. who is to say that a child’s life is more important than pursuing the pleasures of friendship?) In developing “modes of responsibility. that seems to have been the fate of the natural law for many years now. So too are the works of Thomas and Jacques Maritain. and hence of no moral consequence. familiar moral guidelines. Since I would want someone else to break off a conversation with friends to save my child. Germain Grisez (1965) and Finnis (1980) posit what they call “modes of responsibility.86 N a r r at i v e . One can readily see why several critics of the new natural law see it as Kantianism in disguise. Like the Kantian categorical imperative (act as if your action were to become a universal law that all people. scholars have been practicing “as if” natural law. moral principles are issued as if they were principles of the natural law. I might choose to continue chatting with friends instead of preventing a child playing nearby from running into trafﬁc. including yourself. The devaluation or . as Henry Veatch (1978. Otherwise. 24–25) has argued. as are the works of Plato and Aristotle. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw (Lyotard 1984). one quickly realizes that nature itself is treated as valueless—external to reason.” the new natural law theorists believe they have met the objection that they can neither ﬁnd nor posit a hierarchy among goods. then I must will that moral hierarchy for myself as well as others. (If basic goods are equally valuable. A more familiar way of expressing the leading principle is in terms of Kantian universalism. must obey). such as “choose and otherwise will those and only those possibilities whose willing is compatible with a will toward integral human fulﬁllment” (George 1999. Indeed. 50). Another way of putting this same point is that ever since Kant. Modes of responsibility are. “A person. but upon closer inspection. The Bible is an exemplary metanarrative. N at u r e .” wrote Immanuel Kant. “is subject to no other laws than those which he (either alone or jointly with others) gives to himself” (Kant 1991.
Evolutionary Natural Law If the new natural law would solve the is/ought problem by lifting natural law out of nature. but the traits of attachment that lead parents to care for their children. but from a way of thinking that remains committed to interpreting human progress in terms of humanity’s liberation from nature. 55. They came to judge behavior that systematically undermined the social fabric as “wrong” and behavior that made a community worthwhile to live in as “right. Ironic is how a position so essential to the Enlightenment has become essential to postmodernism as well. Our ancestors began to understand how to preserve peace and order— hence how to keep their group united against external threats— without sacriﬁcing legitimate individual interests. from which there is no exit (Devine 2000. evolutionary natural law would proceed in the opposite direction. 73). which argues that there is no path from text to world. For example. We are trapped in text. Though in the end it does not avoid Hume’s problem. that of moral sensibility. evolutionary natural law allows us to rethink the is/ought problem much along the lines Hume himself began. Kainz 2004. sympathy includes not just pity. one suspects. and the community to see to their education. were it not expressed in the argot of social science. . Getting along is deﬁned in terms of “community concern and maintenance of good relationships.” “reciprocity. not merely from an overscrupulous observance of the is/ought distinction.” “norm related characteristics. including “sympathy related traits.” and “getting along” (211). 41–42. re-naturing natural law. Most are readily translated into the human goods listed by Aquinas. Frans de Waal (1996) argues.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 87 epistemological disappearance of nature arises.” (208) De Waal has a list of these community-supporting traits.” a phrase that could have almost been lifted from Thomas.
warmongering? Not only can evolutionary natural law not answer questions of “right” and “wrong” at this level. Wilson (1993) puts it this way in The Moral Sense. He puts the terms “wrong” and “right” in quotes. it is not only to control their innate wildness that men create governments. . . there are moral universals. or slaves? Is it imperialistic. the group must be a stable and secure place. but it gains its strength from assumptions that make it almost impossible to address these questions. In a sense.88 N a r r at i v e . it is not simply their innate aggressiveness that leads men to engage in battles against their rivals. as de Waal suggests. serfs. This is not just contemporary social science talking. N at u r e . The group must remain united and stable. (227) Wilson makes this claim in a section of his book asserting the existence of “moral universals.” Yes. and contrary to Hobbes. Contrary to Freud. that the morality of the group is the morality of war. It is the desire to earn or retain the respect and goodwill of their fellows that . De Waal understands that upholding the social fabric is not necessarily good. Men are less likely to ﬁght alone against one other person than to ﬁght in groups against other groups. not one in which internal conﬂict invites attack. It depends upon the quality of the social fabric itself. How can there be a moral sense if everywhere we ﬁnd cruelty and combat. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Yet. such as the affection of a parent for a child. evolutionary morality is Hobbes writ large: in a threatening world. leads men to accept even the most distorted or implausible judgments of their peers . at least tacitly. among others. sometimes on a monstrous scale? One rather paradoxical answer is that man’s attacks against his fellow man reveal his moral sense because they express his social nature. and a sense of duty and loyalty to the group. and often explicitly. James Q. The trouble is our moral senses are . for if it is not. . . he argues. and persuades many of us to devalue the beliefs and claims of outsiders. Evolutionary morality assumes. it will be less effective against external threats. de Waal does something Thomas would never do. a sense of empathy and fairness. Is the society equivalent to a bunch of German robbers? Does it live off the labor of an underclass of Helots.
internal quote from de Waal). one turns to particular stories about particular people who have lived lives of robbery and murder. “Tell me why I shouldn’t rob and even kill if it makes me rich and happy?” Joe replies. at least not as an explanation. say. they can never be coextensive with humankind. a nation of 300 million (and it is rarely that large. group morality stems from the need to manage group conﬂict. It is the external threat that keeps the sovereign state from devolving into civil war. Not only that. and thus betray your own highest and best nature. though they have their place. No matter how large this group. novels are popular. in the sense of an answer one would give to someone as to why one should be moral. From an evolutionary perspective. or even the war of all against all. The Book . arising in and bounded by the group in which we live. Of course. No threat. Tom asks. in terms of the threat posed by other groups. natural law tells you that it will make you unhappy. particularly in its need for hierarchy. these universal values are not coextensive with humankind. “Because natural law says you shouldn’t. and cooperation. one does not usually turn to natural law as an answer to why someone should be moral. Evolutionary natural law is an explanation of the origins of morality. no cohesion. only to ﬁnd emptiness in the end. for they originate in a group that deﬁnes itself. order. “The building blocks of morality are not nice or good behaviors but rather mental and social capacities for constructing societies ‘in which shared values constrain individual behavior through a system of approval and disapproval’ ” (Wade 2007. Furthermore. such as “Americans like me”).E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 89 parochial. Exchanges such as the following usually don’t happen. It cannot be a reason. today. Enemies do what even leaders cannot.” Instead. It is as if Hobbes’ mighty sovereign was the threat posed by other groups. The Bible used to be the place where most people in the West started. “Be moral because it was to your ancestors’ adaptive advantage” makes no sense as an answer to someone in an ethical quandary. usually it is much smaller. because you will violate the dignity of others. The problem is apparent.
that failure of imagination is my real crime. is just one of hundreds of examples one might turn to. But if giving a narrative is what giving a reason really amounts to as far as the explanation of morality is concerned. struggling against his religious upbringing. Their function may have to do with . . by John Banville (2001). N at u r e . which is what religions really do” (Wade 2007). remains indebted to Judeo-Christian concepts such as sin and forgiveness. It should not pass unnoticed that even a strictly secular novel. that I did not make her live. the one for which there will be no forgiveness: that I never imagined her vividly enough. rather than simply let. De Waal says perhaps more than he knows when he states. the essential sin. “I look at religions as recent additions [to morality]. her live.90 N a r r at i v e . For our purpose. particular stories are more persuasive. However. giving a narrative to them. Yes. This is the worst. I hit her again and again and her blood spattered the window. the one that made the others possible. such as Banville’s. whose protagonist is no Stephen Dedalus. . natural law itself is the narrative we are interested in. but its transformation into something different. for we never escape our nature. or merely into his own narcissism—that he must make. for many (but certainly not all) purposes. I think. because natural law is an abstract narrative. Such is the wisdom of novels. Evolutionary Natural Law is not Natural Law In “Evolutionary Ethics: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?” Peter Corning (2003) mentions that one of the good things to . then this recent addition is not merely a gloss on our evolutionary heritage. which is to think about the basis and meaning of morality. we subject nature to a uniquely human form of understanding. the moral narrative. albeit not completely different. (215) One never quite knows if this is the protagonist’s deep insight into morality. that I never made her be there sufﬁciently. Rather. The question is what evolutionary natural law might add to this story. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw of Evidence. Natural law is this narrative.
suggesting with little more than a hyphen that evolutionary ethics not only explains. Larry Arnhart (1998. except that by the second sentence of his essay. What makes the ethics of the terrorists wrong? About this question evolutionary ethics is not very helpful. how. explains the behavior of the terrorists as well as their victims. and even sacriﬁce. and by what means.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 91 come out of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was the sense that for a little while Americans were all in this together. the terrorists gave of themselves to the group. which shouldn’t. An even simpler example helps to make my point. 51). caring more about a shared ideal than their own lives. Evolutionary ethics helps to explain as a point of empirical fact why individuals sacriﬁce for their group. as much as the more mammalian forms of attachment about which he writes. In other words. in a nutshell. In Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature. As he puts it. such as donating blood and money. which for human animals includes meaning. is whether or not human ethical systems can be explained—and justiﬁed—in terms of evolutionary principles” (Corning 2003. at what cost. in the name of the group. like most evolutionary moral theorists. Evolutionary ethics is concerned with the relationship between me and my group as it faces other groups in the competition for scarce resources. In the case of the terrorists. Like their victims. Human attachment is mediated by symbols. This might seem an obvious point. Corning is fudging the distinction. Trouble is. that binds human groups together. Yet it is this. Corning. understood as the builtin tendency of humans to cooperate. It cannot tell us which societies should be held together. In doing so. human ethical systems. not just skin and kin. evolutionary ethics. it tells us about a force that no one concerned with social or ethical theory can ignore. What evolutionary ethics cannot do is tell us what we should do. the scarce resource is the meaning of modernity itself. but justiﬁes. does not discuss the power of shared ideals. “The basic issue. 265) argues that “the Catholic Church’s . evolutionary ethics is an empirical account of the bonds that hold societies together. that many of us were not just willing but eager to sacriﬁce for others. More than a few sacriﬁced their lives.
Many will fail the test. 94. 259–260). 10). a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw prohibition of divorce is contrary to the natural pattern of human mating. N at u r e . for all his apparent pleasure in quoting Aquinas as once describing natural right as “that which nature has taught all animals. In the tradition of the natural law. the most valued human excellences are precisely those that are the most difﬁcult to achieve. But as Aristotle’s Ethics tells us. Arnhart is the most visible spokesman for a conservative interpretation of evolutionary natural law.” True enough. the situation with Arnhart is stranger than ﬁrst appears. 8). And yet. Knowing that the Church forbids a practice that is contrary to the natural pattern of human mating tells us that the Church is asking something difﬁcult of us. Darwin is not a biological materialist but a modern disciple of Aristotle. Natural law elaborates on who we might become if we fulﬁlled ourselves as human beings as fully as possible. . In fact. In other words. and about that question evolutionary ethics is not helpful. Natural law historically has opposed any simplistic identiﬁcation of the natural with the biological” (Guerra 2001.92 N a r r at i v e . 2. Arnhart has abandoned the heart and soul of the traditional natural law in order to ﬁnd its purported ground in nature. But we knew this already. “For Arnhart. understood as viewing who we are in terms of who we could be. But he’s looking at the wrong nature. Arnhart 1998. What we don’t know is whether the Church should ask this. Darwin never uses the term “evolution” in The Origin of Species. To say that something evolved is to imply that it evolved toward something. “What is most striking about the Darwinian defense of morality is that it argues for one of the positions that natural law has traditionally argued against. but is this bad or good? Darwinian natural right tells us that banning divorce will put pressure on human nature. For all his conservatism. Darwinism proves that morality is rooted in human biology” (Guerra 2001. Properly understood. natural law tells a story about what we could be at our best. “natural” has almost always meant ideally reasonable (not ideally rational).” Arnhart must abandon the tradition of the natural law in order to make it compatible with Darwin (ST I–II. Evolution is a teleological term.
Though it certainly appears as if Hobbes was committed to a scientiﬁc model of man. The context of Aquinas’s comment on what nature has taught all animals is not that of equating humans with animals. but quite the opposite— that of beginning with those things we share with animals. but the desire to build a science of man based on the reigning model of the natural sciences lives on. it marked the beginning of the effort to use scientiﬁc methods and objective concepts in the sphere of human behavior. The history to be understood is why human love so often fails. at least compared with Arnhart’s (2000. we shall see that science for Hobbes was a rhetorical strategy in an ideological struggle. Even though the hypothesis is probably untenable. albeit a science based on a mechanical rather than evolutionary model of man. 23) claim that if natural law is to remain intellectually vital. Hobbes too believed that he was not just telling a story about human nature. In the seventeenth century this was a novel undertaking.2 Today. it “will need to show that [its] position is compatible with this new science of human nature. A vague ﬁeld of study to be sure. 94). extends far beyond it (ST I–II. (Richard Peters 2006. a point overlooked by both Peters and Arnhart.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 93 Natural law isn’t about biological nature. The nature to be studied is the heart’s desire to love. The nature that natural law is concerned with comes closer to the nature with which Maritain is concerned. as well as a dangerous one. the inclinations of the human heart.” For a moment Arnhart sounds like Hobbes talking. while rooted in our animal nature. a less . Hobbes and Galileo were contemporaries. To suggest that man is a machine was a great step forward in thought. such as a desire to live and procreate. he was founding a new science. the mechanical model is out. the evolutionary model of man is in. Consider what Arnhart is willing to sacriﬁce in order to found natural law in a less metaphorical (more precisely put. 9) The danger that Peters refers to is the threat posed by the Church. in order to show how human participation in the natural law.
and is seeking to comfort himself. human nature as it could be. take this place-taking a step further. Kuni picked up the starling with one hand and climbed to the highest point of the highest tree where she wrapped her legs around the trunk so that she had both hands free to hold the bird. in which one creature seeks to comfort another. This is what Thomas means. de Waal is more circumspect. Nature in the natural law tradition doesn’t mean empirical human nature as it is. The story takes place in the Twycross Zoo. or rather confuse. Nature means teleological human nature. caught the other’s pain. and it is a meaning entirely compatible with evolutionary natural law. One day. Apes. (de Waal 2006. She then carefully unfolded its wings and spread them wide open. N at u r e . a 2. however. 30–31) Kuni had seen birds ﬂying throughout her enclosure her entire life. the sake for which a thing exists or is done. which appeared undamaged.94 N a r r at i v e . Conversely. this is what Maritain means. Most monkeys seem to do this. . Kuni captured a starling. in England. Easiest to ﬁnd is “emotional contagion. imaginatively identifying with the particular situation of the injured other. human nature understood in terms of what Aristotle called our ﬁnal cause. human nature at its best. he wonders to what degree empathy is to be found in certain primates. Instead. De Waal tells the fascinating story of a bonobo female empathizing with an injured bird. Nature in natural law refers to our most complete development as humans. . what we call empathizing. He would abandon. Kuni demonstrated “the empathetic capacity . Out of fear that she might molest the stunned bird. especially bonobo apes. the keeper urged the ape to let it go . because the comforter has.000-year-old tradition of the meaning of “natural” in the term natural law. before throwing the bird into the air. in some sense. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw interesting and less subtle metaphor) reading of nature. as long as we do not become reductive and literal minded. If Arnhart would turn an account of the evolution of morality into the basis of natural law.” as it is called. A professor of primate behavior. what she did would have killed a baby bonobo. one wing with each hand.
over all men. and perhaps that is the correct term. Other passions. Most important are those virtues summarized by Hume under the category the “party of humankind. it occurs more frequently in discourse. But these principles. though. and the blame and approbation. even in its most sophisticated form. but the capacity for a theory of other minds (as demonstrated by attribution. not assuming it to be a mirror of one’s own. 167) talks about sympathy as a building block. and is the same in all. are social and universal. are often overpowered by its force. in solitary and uncultivated nature. the most cognitively developed of the apes. limited disposition to respond to the wishes and needs of those closest to us.” With this term. De Waal (2006. sympathetic even . though perhaps originally stronger. the party of humankind against vice or disorder. is cherished by society and conversation. But sympathy. as long as we recognize how much more remains to be built. is not sufﬁcient. not just empathy. And as the benevolent concern for others is diffused.3 ) and place-taking. in a greater or less degree. in a manner. they form. even when they go beyond the bounds of our group. its common enemy. 31).E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 95 so enduringly described by Adam Smith as ‘changing places in fancy with the sufferer’ ” (de Waal 2006. and so extend our sympathies even when they conﬂict with our desires. and yield the dominion of our breast to those social and public principles. we must remark. de Waal concludes that one ﬁnds in the bonobos and chimpanzees. From this and other evidence. to potentially include all humankind. yet being selﬁsh and private. the ability to recognize the mental states of others. all of which are necessary for the direction of other-directed sympathy that takes the situation of the other into account. employed in the conclusion of An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. consequent on it. are thereby roused from that lethargy into which they are probably lulled. will require that humans come to be more than merely sympathetic in a broad sense. Hume (1960) seems to mean that through education and culture we have the potential to reﬁne the original. (114) This. while necessary to morality.
and humanity. allegiance. Through the eyes of others we become the spectators of our own conduct. then desiring to be worthy of their praise is desiring to be worthy of the highest things. gratitude. benevolence. One might trivialize this judgment as simply the desire to be thought well of by one’s buddies. discretion. and forming judgments about the propriety of our own feelings and motives. ﬁdelity. charity. forethought. chastity. and this whole class of virtues and accomplishments. Hume lists a similar set of virtues. generosity. esteemed solely on account of their tendency to promote the good of society? Is not that tendency inseparable from humanity. 115) Here is the real internalization necessary to transform sympathy into morality. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw when doing so runs against our selﬁsh desires. honour. moderation. before going on to argue for the close connection. the approach to morality that seems closest to that of evolutionary natural law. hope. piety. and all the other social virtues? Can it possibly be doubted that industry. Are not justice. (Korsgaard 2006. tenderness. The party of humankind seems to require that humans come to see ourselves as others see us.96 N a r r at i v e . secrecy. The internal spectator transforms our natural desire to be thought well of and praised into something deeper. judgement. between those virtues that beneﬁt society and those that beneﬁt the individual. order. perseverance. lenity. sympathy leads us to consider how we ourselves appear from the point of view of others. N at u r e . if they share the virtues of wisdom. and it might easily become that. a desire to be worthy of praise. into an actor and a spectator. justice. Because we are social animals. self-discipline. the internalization not of rules. But if one’s friends and community belong to the party of humankind. friendship. frugality. as Smith described it. Christine Korsgaard draws on Adam Smith’s (1982) Theory of Moral Sentiments to make this point. but not the identity. courage. This is the approach of moral sensibility. of which many . dividing internally. My list of virtues is Greek and Christian. but of a social judgment of what it means to be worthy of praise. veracity. and to enter into their feelings about us.
. one which. is the sole foundation of their merit? (Hume 1960. (Kitcher 2006. and whether the object of one’s love is truly worthy. what Thomas called inclinationes naturales. . myths . That depends upon how one loves. within a life of sin” (Maritain 1984. Such nobility requires education and cultivation of the natural desire to be praised. stories. Some of these were more popular with neighbors and with descendent groups. and increased cooperation.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 97 pages would not contain the catalogue. The wish to be praised is not necessarily good. Telling Stories about Our Sympathies Transforms Them into Natural Law Human sensibility. can it be doubted. at some level. to deﬁne the way in which “we” live. So it goes with the desire to be worthy of praise. while love is a virtue. The most successful ones were transmitted across the generations. is likely to lead us into the greatest folly. may be the foundation of the natural law. what Maritain means when he says that “love can radiate within a life morally upright . more likely because they made for smoother societies. though the way in which humans share these sympathies among themselves is quite different. Humans share the sympathies that make up the party of humankind by sharing stories. . 224). we share with the higher apes. Love. greater harmony. I say. . Different small bands of human beings tried out various sets of normative resources . It can likewise radiate . 116) The desire to be praised shares some of the attributes of Maritain’s chief virtue. as even such a natural sentiment as love requires education and cultivation. . it is not an unalloyed virtue. For. . the greatest virtue. . that the tendency of these qualities to promote the interest and happiness of their possessor. Noble is the wish to be praised by the best people for the truest virtues. . . So too can the desire to be praised. 136–137) . perhaps because they offered greater reproductive success. love.
or even that murder is always wrong in every circumstance (something. N at u r e . one suspects that religion. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Though he seems to speculate about genetic transmission when he refers to “reproductive success. narratives about how men and women might arrange their conduct in order to ﬁt into the natural order of the larger world. The second disadvantage of viewing the natural law from a narrative perspective.4 The advantage of viewing the natural law in this way is that “Hume’s problem” disappears almost completely (though we have seen that it was never a real problem for Hume to begin with). the conjunction of morality with cosmology or theology.” the time span of which Kitcher writes. and cannot.98 N a r r at i v e . and the ability to tell a story about what one is doing. For humans. as revealed in his discussion of . At some point. that theft is always wrong. by the way. 72–74] believed. In fact. at least if one is hoping that the natural law will settle questions of right and wrong. for example.000 years ago. but not evolutionary natural law. beginning about 20. depending upon what one is hoping to gain from the natural law. cosmology. The story that makes sense of the “ought” is natural law. and morality were woven together from the beginning.” the unbridgeable gulf between fact and value never emerges. exist. as de Waal refers to them. so placing one’s act within the framework of a larger story of humanity’s proper place in the natural order of things. the world is all value all the time. seems too short to allow for anything but cultural transmission. as Korsgaard puts it. not the mute impulse. and here I elaborate on Kitcher. It is moderns who have separated their narrative strands. evolutionary natural law does not. Moral sensibility exists. that not even Jacques Maritain [1951. The disadvantages of viewing the natural law in this way are several (or not). these stories became woven into more complex narratives. not always to our advantage. is that the narrative approach reveals that there is no assumption I could make about the natural law that would prove. about the place of man and morality in the scheme of things. religious narratives. Because we are not deriving “ought” from “is. First. because natural law requires both the ability to be motivated by an ought.
but can sometimes be pointed out. praise. as in “Here’s why I see the act as part of the story called sexual harassment.5 ) Or rather. In other words. Is he the protagonist in the story called “sexual harassment. . I will not repeat it here.”6 The relationship between act and story isn’t one of derivation or deﬁnition. This is why the ﬁrst move. but more akin to what Wittgenstein (1973) calls a “family resemblance. one has exercised ethical judgment: judgment in and through an act of rhetoric. we are putting the act within a story.” or the story called “fooling around at work by well-meaning boors?” Moral debate and discourse on this issue become a matter of trying to persuade people that the salient aspects of the act (he told a dirty joke) are part of the larger story of sexual harassment. for it is this move that locates the act within the story called sexual harassment. The best way to proceed is by way of what Ludwig Wittgenstein (1973.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 99 the terrible dilemmas faced by French Resistance.” Or as Wittgenstein put it. or blame. often called “thick description. we are not putting an instance under a universal. as in “he winked conspiratorially at his men friends as he began his joke. . Because just before he told the so-called joke he . as part of the story of sexual harassment. Judgment here means not what Kant meant. the application of laws to cases.” Once one locates the act. in this case telling a dirty joke. moral debate and discourse become an example of persuasion.” From this perspective. but an act of interpretation that describes something as something else. there is no assumption I could make that would not depend upon assumptions that themselves are subject to question. Consider the following example: A man tells a dirty joke at work in mixed company. one has done one’s ethical work.” is key. . . Once one has done this. there are things that cannot be proved. Since I have made this argument previously. part 11) called “aspect seeing.” Approaching the natural law as a story helps us understand that when we ethically judge. we are placing an act within an implicit narrative context. such as “this act is bad because it is part of the story we call sexual harassment. Instead.
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Pointing out its resemblance to other acts, placing it within a narrative context, is what justiﬁes the use of value-laden words to describe the act of telling a dirty joke as sexual harassment (Levine 1998, 37). Here is the model for all philosophical justiﬁcation: the higher one goes up the ladder of moral abstraction, from sexual harassment, to “the telos of a good human life,” the more justiﬁcation looks like “aspect seeing.” This is because there is less and less agreement on fundamentals, less and less accord on the principles one might subsume an instance under, even if one could agree on the character of the instance, which is generally hard enough in itself, as the story about the dirty joke reveals. Because it is concerned with moral sensibility—Aquinas’s inclinationes naturales—the natural law will tell stories that make a direct appeal to human feeling, connaturality, moral intuition, the vibration of the human heart, whatever term you wish. But because we are human animals who use language, these feelings are always mediated through stories. The natural basis—moral sensibility—is real, and can be counted upon (counted upon, alas, also to deceive us), but it speaks to us in the only language it and we know, that of narrative. These narratives can be reconstructed as rules, universals, and all the rest, but the question then becomes why? Is not the natural law, now that we know what it is, enough?
The new natural law of Finnis and George is a stunted story, for it lacks a developed narrative to go with it. Like so much philosophy, the new natural law solves the problem of the justiﬁcation of fundamental moral statements by simplifying or eliminating the metaphysical assumptions (assumptions about the human good) behind them. Trouble is, justifying natural law by simplifying its narrative in this way achieves only a simple narrative. Evolutionary natural law is also a stunted story, but one must make a distinction here between the work of de Waal and Arnhart, for example. De Waal’s studies of the origins of
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moral sentiments in primate behavior are composed of dozens of fascinating narratives, one good story after another, only one of which I have shared, the anecdote of Kuni, the bonobo who climbed a tree to release a bird into the air. Together de Waal’s stories tell a compelling tale of chimpanzees and bonobos sharing with us the emotional building blocks of morality. But de Waal isn’t doing evolutionary natural law. He is doing evolutionary morality, or the evolution of morality. Where evolutionary natural law becomes a stunted language is where it takes the evolutionary approach not as a stepping stone, but as a foundation stone, to which natural law must return, and from which natural law dare not venture very far. Returning to an example from Arnhart will make my point.
Although the religious doctrine of marriage as a sacrament can support the natural morality of marital bonding, this religious view of marriage can also promote an imprudent dogmatism that goes against human nature. The Catholic Church’s prohibition of divorce, for example, is contrary to the natural pattern of human mating. Once children have reached a certain age, there is no natural need for the parents to remain together forever . . . . While Aquinas concedes this, he tries to argue that permanent monogamy is required by nature to ensure the children’s inheritance (ST, suppl., 67). But securing the inheritance of familial property is important only in certain social and economic circumstances . . . . In industrialized and urbanized societies, husbands and wives have enough economic independence to pursue the natural human inclination to serial monogamy, in which human beings marry, divorce, and then remarry. (Arnhart 1998, 265)
Earlier, I argued that one cannot use the natural law to prove that divorce is wrong, so this is not my objection to Arnhart. My objection is that he has trivialized the natural law. Arnhart titles his book Darwinian Natural Right (1998), but his frequent and extensive references to Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as his explicit claim that “I have assumed the reality of natural ends and natural kinds” (231), reveals that he sees himself writing within the tradition of natural law. In other words, my objection is not directed against a straw man.
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Against Arnhart’s argument about divorce, one might argue, for example, that a lifetime commitment between two people most fully realizes the nature of love as gift of self, much along the lines of Maritain. Here would be the place to tell stories about love in the times of hardship, the despair of disloyalty, the renewal of faith, and the rebirth of hope. It could well be the place to write about marriage as religious sacrament, but there are sacraments that take place outside the bounds of ofﬁcial religion. Whether or not one agrees with every possibility I have suggested, using evolutionary morality to transform natural law into a rational response to changes in the economic dependence of women and children upon men in the age of industrialization seems to miss the point (as well as quite possibly being empirically mistaken). Finally, who says that serial monogamy is more “natural” than a lifetime’s commitment? Arnhart quotes Helen Fisher’s (1992) work on Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery, and Divorce as evidence, but this is hardly what “natural” means in natural law in any case. Natural means the stories people tell about themselves at their human best, to put it as simply as possible. One more stunted story is worth mentioning, the founding story of Western liberalism, Thomas Hobbes, and social contract theory. To some it may seem strange to call Hobbes the ﬁrst liberal, for he favors an authoritarian state. He does so, however, for strictly “liberal” reasons: to protect the rights of the individual to be free from fear, to be free to trade and pursue commerce, to be free to live his or her private life. Furthermore, his subjects all come together and individually freely contract with the sovereign, giving up rights that are useless in a state of nature in order to gain others. Hobbes is the ﬁrst contemporary social contract theorist, with the social contract serving individual, not social, goods, even as they turn out to be inseparable. In this sense he is a liberal (Berns 1972). Here, I refer not to Hobbes’ particular view of humans as scared and aggressive creatures needing a mighty sovereign to keep them in check, lest they render each other’s lives “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Leviathan, c. xiii). I refer more generally to his idea of solitary individuals coming together to
who states that the point is not simply that the social contract wasn’t true. or terrorist cell. His new science of man was. not the immediate practical need Hobbes would seem to have his readers imagine. 119. there is no more ridiculous proposition than that men fear their own violent death most of all. like millions before them. there was such a need. religion. to their own deaths in the name of their tribe. What about evolutionary natural law? Is it just one more rhetorical trope. then natural law is itself a trope. he is properly incredulous when he asks. family. If so. or party. Though de Waal (1996. Hobbes was never the master scientist of man. nation. then they. a rhetorical trope. 167) is evidently unaware of the history of Leviathan as political rhetoric. millions of men and women have gone. often willingly. but it was an ideological need. a brilliant narrative. 163). we crave an antidote. If a trope is characterized by irony (among other things8 ). using the new.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 103 make a social contract so that out of chaos and disorder they might have order. then they might be governed by a central authority that administered the threat of death7 (Johnston 1986). De Waal quotes Mary Midgley. If one stops and thinks about it for a moment. “Are we so painfully aware of the ancient patterns that we crave an antidote?” The answer is yes. religion. polis. In fact. or rather an anodyne. He was the master rhetorician. If not. from the knowledge of how terribly dependent we are upon the group. would live and die for clan. using the science of the day? Yes and no. tribe. to put it as simply as possible. for what else is the claim that knowledge of the natural law is the . Führer. in a word. On the contrary. sometimes eagerly. that there never was such a founding moment: “Much more deeply. powerful language and imagery of science as geometry and mechanics to persuade fearful men and women to fear the same thing. there was never the need to which that contract would have been an answer” (Midgley 1994. individual violent death most of all. so that they might be more easily governed. The ideological need was to convince the restive and newly literate middle classes that they did indeed fear their own. de Waal 1996.
even when elevated into the “party of humankind. N at u r e . Furthermore. understands that he is not doing natural law. If Hume’s and Smith’s insights into the origins of the moral sentiments in the opinions of others. I suggested that Maritain’s discomfort with his own conclusion was an inheritance of his religious approach. Maritain is right to be worried. history is too often about warriors. History is where we look for accounts of the best the party of humankind is capable of. a study of the mammalian bases of the social sentiments. Nonetheless. True perhaps. kings. then the natural law can never avoid the risk of becoming a reﬂection of popular morality. While the common law natural law has much to recommend it. natural law is not something we vote on. when employed by Arnhart. the ability to command them is not. as Hume (1960. but whether it is a bad trope: yes. but something more limited. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw discovery of what one already knows. in which natural law is ultimately an expression of Divine Law. It is close to where Maritain ended up regarding international human rights as a type of unwritten common law. on which the natural law is based. What helps is history. no.104 N a r r at i v e . presidents.” are correct. but over time. 113–116) recognizes. lest our attachment to the group leads us to become the new German robbers. Of course. but his self-understanding of his project readily ﬁts this interpretation. . as Maritain realizes. De Waal. too little about the noblest and best men and women living everyday lives. though the sentiments of the party of humankind are universal. de Waal doesn’t put it this way. to which there is only one proper interpretation. on the other hand. as well as to the depths it has fallen. and battles. Unfortunately. This is not all bad. not even by the party of humankind. what is already “written on the heart”? The question is not whether evolutionary natural law is a trope. but unhelpful unless one wishes to fall back on it in a dogmatic way. but which the natural law must cultivate and reﬁne. when employed by de Waal. One might argue that natural law exists independently of all human attempts to know it. The party of humankind extends not just across societies and cultures. Evolutionary natural law is a bad trope in Arnhart’s case because he would transform good natural law into bad science.
Noble and good lives come in different shapes and sizes. and society to dim our vision of the natural law ﬁgure in the next chapter. As part of this study. John Locke has written about these limits. . the natural law is revealed by a constant dialectic (or constant comparison. it would be necessary to consider some of the cultural and institutional barriers to an awareness of the natural law.E v o l u t i o n a r y N at u r a l L aw 105 One of the tasks of those writing about natural law should be to spend less time founding or justifying the natural law. culture. as well as the different forms and directions that this awareness takes. These limits should cause us to be modest about what we claim for the natural law. the best humans could possibly live. if one wishes to avoid an overused word) between narratives of good human lives and the best human lives. Determining all these things are empirical tasks. and more time documenting the lives of those who live it. but they should not paralyze us. Or rather. and his warnings about the power of history. both of which reveal the limitations of our knowledge. but this does not make the natural law empirical in quite the same way as its study. All the while remembering that this dialogue takes place in history and across cultures.
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The ﬁrst is to read virtually all the great thinkers of human history as contributing to the development of human rights. Micheline Ishay (2008) is exemplary. A new universal discourse of rights took hold. to scientiﬁc planning and rules of law. Aristotle. two tendencies are apparent. like Epictetus. eclipsed during the Middle Ages. a n d L o c k e Among those who write on international human rights. in a different way. (19) Understood as a strictly Western phenomenon. and others. N at u r a l L aw. and Cicero. and advocates like Plato. the Buddha. and also. committed to reason and individual free choice. Paul (the New Testament). would be reinvoked during the Enlightenment . . to contractual agreement and economic independence. from the detached universal love professed by the Stoics. the Enlightenment continues this march of intellectual progress. While human rights force us to think about universality in political and economic terms. . they beneﬁt from such portrayals of brotherly love as one ﬁnds in Micah (the Hebrew Bible). . While the Greek and Roman notions of laws and rights.Chapter 5 I n t e r n at i o n a l H u m a n R i g h t s . The emerging .
on the one hand. Human rights as the culmination of history. and human rights as liberation from a stultifying history on the other: both tendencies reﬂect the difﬁculty of many human rights theorists in locating international human rights within the traditions of the natural law and (we shall see) natural rights itself. 189) Pogge creates an unnecessary dichotomy.1 A contradictory tendency is to write as if international human rights began in the postwar era. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw commercial nation state was then entrusted to diffuse these ideals worldwide in the spirit of peace and cooperation. N at u r e . 246–311). One may rather have wronged God.” Thomas Pogge (2001. including Pogge’s. While recognizing that “our current notion of human rights has evolved out of earlier notions of natural law and natural rights. to locate international human rights in history. which is not necessarily concerned with the harm we do to other people. In ruling out these (formerly prominent) alternative ideas. the shift from natural-law to naturalrights language constitutes a secularization which facilitates the presentation of a select set of moral concerns as broadly sharable in a world that has become much larger and more heterogeneous. as well as cautious. Ishay reﬂects a tendency among some who write about international human rights to write its history in the grand style. for example. in which one must choose between an outmoded language that worships idols over humans and a contemporary language that puts humans ﬁrst. First. 69) Ishay’s vision is roomy. (Ishay 2008. Nevertheless. She is hopeful but wary of the impact of globalization on cultural and ethnic minorities (2008. leaving plenty of space for socialism. it will help to consider three of the more interesting attempts. We make progress in a secular world by abandoning the natural law idiom. 187) does not think that it is intellectually or even morally desirable that this connection be maintained. (Pogge 2001. . or have disturbed the harmonious order of the cosmos.108 N a r r at i v e .
they are not simply a practical instance of the natural law. I would also have explained the essence of the great insanity of the third German [Reich]. not to justify them. human rights documents are fundamentally political. But one . Ignatieff (2001.” but as a means for the adjudication of conﬂict. How far to push this simple and important point? Perhaps it does not require proof. a place that meant life rather than death. and sometimes to mobilize constituencies for the use of force. “Our species is one. In other words. In this sense. Pannwitz stared up at him. which came as if across the glass window of an aquarium between two beings who live in different worlds. 20) puts it more ﬂatly when he states that human rights should be understood not as a language “for the proclamation and enactment of eternal verities. N at u r a l L aw. The look was not between two men. Certainly we shouldn’t let questions of foundations lead us to forget that human rights documents serve ﬁrst and foremost to protect rights. and regimes such as the Third Reich. about securing a place in the chemical factory at Auschwitz. we come to understand that “human rights is nothing other than politics” (21). human rights are more important than the documents that assert them.” and each of the individuals who compose the species is entitled to equal moral consideration.H u m a n R i g h t s . Human rights provide the moral language for political argument about rights claims. 2–3). Levi stood on one side of the desk in his concentration camp uniform. It is simply a given. 105–106) The point of this story. is that Pannwitz is the alien. Dr. at least. for he does not understand the most important point about humanity. Sitting at his desk. In thinking about human rights in this way. and we measure the perversion of men like Pannwitz. says Ignatieff (2001. 3) begins with a tale told by Primo Levi. and if I had known how completely to explain the nature of that look. (Levi 1996. a n d L o c k e 109 Ignatieff: Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry Michael Ignatieff (2001. by how far they have fallen away from this fundamental truth.
. there is considerable empirical evidence to the contrary. Because it is often useful to focus on what human rights do. a sort of unwritten common law. Where Ignatieff goes wrong is to assume that because human rights documents are political. . 54) The logic doesn’t follow. therefore. 78). forgetting to ask what human rights do for people. such as “everyone has the right to life. Sometimes hypocrisy is better than nothing. does not mean that foundational claims divide in ways that cannot be resolved. which is political. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw should not confuse the use of moral language of the argument.g. . liberty. divide. Foundational claims . and how they do it. Politics uses moral language all the time.” with its status and function. (2001.110 N a r r at i v e . I would argue. and these divisions cannot be resolved in the way humans usually resolve their arguments. then the rejoinder is that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. . foundational claims can only divide people. 77) claim that the founders of the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. if the reader should reply that the political use of human rights language is generally hypocritical. and security of person. 78) calls “grosso modo a sort of common residue. holding to a half-dozen different foundational or metaphysical positions. And. because it is all too easy for philosophers and academics to focus on foundations. at the point of practical convergence of extremely different theoretical traditions” (Maritain 1951. were able to reach agreement by means of what Maritain (1951. The same is true with human rights. A most convincing piece we have already seen: Jacques Maritain’s (1951. N at u r e . Ignatieff argues persuasively that failed states are one of the biggest threats to human rights today). to forgo these kinds of foundational arguments altogether and seek to build support for human rights on the basis of what these rights actually do for human beings. and we do not ask that every moral term be philosophically fundamentally grounded. and how they do it (e. by means of discussion and argument. Far better. In fact.
Interesting is to what degree this “common residue” resembles what John Rawls (1993) calls an “overlapping consensus” in Political Liberalism. or modus vivendi. Rawls does not imagine an “overlapping consensus” to be a mere political agreement. N at u r a l L aw. is real. . shared agreement on principles of application coexisting with disagreement on fundamentals. what Maritain calls a “common residue.”2 To be sure.H u m a n R i g h t s . an overlapping consensus is an agreement among parties with different fundamental belief systems because they have decided that their fundamental belief systems share a common core. xxii) hold to a similar view. 39) Rather.” Nevertheless. compromise. Maritain is interested in truth—that each fundamental view that goes into making up the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man possesses a “reasonable fragment” of this truth. The reality they represent. . We do not look to the comprehensive doctrines that in fact exist and then draw up a political conception that strikes some kind of balance of forces between them. reﬂect a comprehensive doctrine at odds with the laws of legitimate political institutions. pointing to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s argument in favor of prohibiting abortion in “The Consistent Ethic” (1986). Are Catholics who live under these laws not merely compromising? Rawls (1999b. Rawls is concerned with justiﬁed or legitimate political stability. . Like Maritain. 170) does not believe this is necessarily the case. The idea of an overlapping consensus is easily misunderstood given the idea of consensus used in everyday politics . Certain familiar views. There are problems with this ambition. a n d L o c k e 111 Mary Ann Glendon (2002) and Amy Gutmann (2001. reasonable fragment and common residue are not only strikingly complementary images. an argument based . there is a decisive difference between Rawls and Maritain. or “reasonable fragment of each of the main comprehensive doctrines of the community. (Rawls 1993. such as the Roman Catholic position on abortion. problems more severe than might appear at ﬁrst glance.
or it will not be seen as legitimate. as part of an overlapping consensus that includes fundamental disagreement. I shall use it in that way. in which overlapping consensus serves legitimate political stability under a just constitutional democracy. and several other Muslim scholars. “Why should the human rights of this or that . There are times when an answer to the question. As used in this chapter. particularly the rights of women and apostates. But Sharia is a historical interpretation given in the context of the Middle Ages (Muhammad died in 632 CE). While performing a useful function in reminding us that human rights exist not to engage philosophers in endless argument.112 N a r r at i v e . even if there remains fundamental disagreement on whence these principles are derived. essential protections of human rights. who would separate Sharia. the best answer seems to be to follow the lead of Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im (2001). N at u r e . the status of women’s rights and the punishment of apostasy are in question. Ignatieff has created a false dichotomy between human rights as political tool kit and human rights as philosophical fundamental foundation. While Rawls does not enter into the details of Bernardin’s argument in The Law of Peoples. the traditional interpretations of Islamic religious law that are incompatible with the overlapping consensus of Western liberal democracy. as well as how they should be argued for and defended. Here. The details I leave to the experts. and there are other ways of reading the Quran and the Sunna that are compatible with international human rights. Rawls does not doubt that Bernardin casts his argument in the form of public reason—that is. Reform of Islamic law must be in accordance with the Quran and the Sunna (the Prophet’s elaborations). abstracting from Rawls’s context. as well as portions of their content. a later set of legal elaborations from the Quran and the Sunna. A tougher case is Sharia. In the case of Sharia. and commonly accepted standards of moral behavior in a community of law.3 The more general point is that overlapping consensus is not a lowest common denominator. overlapping consensus refers to agreement on general principles of human rights. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw on the values of public peace. but a more demanding standard.
Thomas Pogge Pogge’s argument against the natural law is not conﬁned to the brief summary of it given at the beginning of this chapter. that someone were to steal the means of my substance. then they comprise a tool kit made of words wrapped up in a parcel of rhetoric. It is bound to his understanding of human rights as speciﬁcally concerned with “ofﬁcial” threats to the well-being of others— that is. such as my cow or my plow. not just threats from the state. N at u r a l L aw. this is not a violation of my human rights. Sometimes the most effective rhetorical response may be virtually wordless. must be in some sense ofﬁcial. “Look what they are doing to those poor wretches!” One might put the same point another way. designed to persuade. threats posed by governments (2001. perhaps more to Ignatieff’s liking. according to Pogge. and state-like entities. a n d L o c k e 113 group be protected?” requires a fundamental answer. The trouble with natural law. If human rights are a tool kit. Consider. for example (and this follows Pogge’s example). a religious or philosophical story.H u m a n R i g h t s . Sometimes the rhetorical response that will be most effective will invoke humanity’s relationship to the universe. Without them I will starve. What is important is that the argument ﬁt the task. The narratives of philosophy and religion are all rhetoric. 192). an image of a starving child. is that it would oblige one to defend the interests of others against all threats to their well-being. Why? Because human rights violations. and that human rights thus protect persons only . There are other times when an answer to “Why?” requires no more than the answer. To call human rights a rhetorical strategy is not to diminish it. for example. and Ignatieff is correct that too often the philosophical foundational argument has been employed for a task for which it is ill suited: to mobilize action. “to count as such. For Pogge. and the natural rights tradition that goes with it. which means a story that situates human beings within the universe in some way—that is. such as organized guerrilla groups.
or to protect each other from violence. A minimalist. the enjoyment of the fruits of science and the arts. it seems. locating it under the category of “ofﬁcial disrespect” (193).114 N a r r at i v e . Therefore. Citizens. one might argue that Pogge’s institutional reinterpretation of human rights has no practical bad effects. but rights to a decent livelihood. citizens have a duty “to ensure that the social order they collectively and coercively impose upon each of themselves is one under which each has secure access” to the necessities of life (203). In democracies. . worker protections. and that fellow citizens. have an obligation to vote for the minimal welfare state. A maximalist.” may violate human rights (192).” Governments and their ofﬁcials. Pogge has decided to leave that question aside. why shouldn’t governments disrespect their citizens? Because governments are representative of their citizens. and “probably” organizations such as guerrilla movements. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw against violations from certain sources. Citizens do not have an obligation to provide for each other. “Human rights are then moral claims upon the organization of one’s society. but not the “petty criminal” or the “violent husband. And. which stem from . including an adequate police force that will protect and defend its citizens. the right to an education. . interpretation of human rights . especially privileged fellow citizens. N at u r e . especially since it can indirectly address the threat to my life posed by the thief who steals my livelihood. have a special duty to foster institutional reform. governments are made by us all. liberty. meanwhile shielding the victims of injustice (202). With so many caveats. In some ways this formulation has the advantage of clarity: no natural law. no natural rights. and due process. just limits to government. interpretation of human rights says that human rights covers the entire panoply of rights guaranteed by the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights: rights not just to life. or negative. or the spouse who beats me to a pulp.” To be sure. or positive. Pogge understands that governments often fail their citizens. while having the advantage of carving out a midpoint between a maximalist and minimalist interpretation of human rights. and so forth. In some ways it is a neat solution. well.
H u m a n R i g h t s . “[I]f the misery of our poor be caused not by laws of nature. and due process under law. he writes on the assumption that there is no sense in which the term “sin” might make any but the vaguest metaphorical claim upon us (Alford 1993). liberty. or even held by its citizens as a trust. Or as Charles Darwin put it. who understands the great tradition he would disagree with. 203) quotes this famous line from Darwin. and when citizens forget that human rights belong neither to states nor citizens. is it not? Unfortunately. Pogge is able to carve out this midpoint because he allows institutions to do the heavy lifting. but the institutions against which international human rights protect us (“ofﬁcial” threats). making it. if and when they are able. The problem is his position. Maritain saw the great danger of this in Man and the State. but it was written at a time when the Enlightenment had fallen victim to the worship of the nation-state. The purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to remind people that the state is not the entity in which rights may be located. Pogge (2001. 19). Citizens of states are what states are composed of. great is our sin” (Gould 1991. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be a child of the Enlightenment. Not international human rights. through its citizens. except perhaps for the cavalier way in which he treats two thousand years of intellectual history? And that’s mostly a matter for professional intellectuals anyway. So what’s wrong with Pogge.” This from Ignatieff (2001. Though it is the goal of international human rights to separate rights from states (before the Second World . the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was “a studied attempt to reinvent European natural law tradition in order to safeguard individual agency against the totalitarian state. Pogge’s intellectual style is not the problem. On the contrary. then these human rights are in absolute danger. N at u r a l L aw. but quite unlike Darwin. but by our own institutions. but to individuals. he has ended up idealizing the state. the guarantor of human rights. 65–66). a n d L o c k e 115 focuses on the protection of the basic rights of life. Defending against the state. go on to guarantee us a larger set of rights. Ignatieff too.
not a moral status. Perry Is there any intelligible secular version of the claim that every human being is sacred—or instead. N at u r e . 35). is the claim inescapably religious and the idea of human rights ineliminably religious (Perry 1998. 5)? To this question. it is worth remembering Hannah Arendt’s (1973) cautions in The Origins of Totalitarianism about the utter vulnerability of the stateless person. but the loss of a community willing and able to guarantee any right whatsoever has been the calamity which has befallen ever-increasing numbers of people. Citizen is a political role. as trustees for citizens’ rights.116 N a r r at i v e . can lose all the so-called Rights of Man without losing his essential quality as a man. But it is not an argument for locating rights within citizens who belong to states. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw War. Arendt was accurately describing the world. in Pogge’s theory. Not the loss of speciﬁc rights. Hers was and remains a good argument for the establishment and preservation of the State of Israel. Man. even when this creature is granted the status of citizen. as it does in Pogge. Perry answers no. his human dignity. even when these states serve. You can’t protect the individual from the state while thinking of the individual as ﬁrst and foremost a creature of the state. of a genuine attempt to protect the individual from the state. placing them in a moral purgatory. It is a step backward because it renders the stateless utterly without rights. only states had rights under international law). rather than in persons who belong to the community of humanity. even when it takes the form. there is no intelligible secular version of the claim that human rights are . To think like this is a step toward the idolatry of the state. And it is a step backward because it leads citizens to think of themselves ﬁrst of all as members of a polity. (297) Tying rights to states. Only the loss of a polity itself expels him from humanity. is a step backward. Michael J. it turns out. just as Ignatieff argues that failed states pose the greatest danger to human rights (2001. not as members of the human race.
H u m a n R i g h t s . like Glenn Tinder. it seems. ﬁnding it deeply problematic precisely because Dworkin’s concept is not religious. the same thing is true of the idea that every individual possesses incalculable worth. . Camus 1955. Any other morality is but a lie told by the weak to the strong (Tinder 1989. hold that without religion. and should therefore receive the same gift of each other’s loving care (John 13: 34–35). “He who destroys one person has dealt a blow at the entire universe. a n d L o c k e 117 sacred. . What happens when one tries to keep the “existential yield” without the religious story behind it? Some. Human rights stem from a vision in which every human life is sacred because the world is hallowed ground. in which I ﬁnd myself alone in a radically unfamiliar. 14). but Christian morality itself. Perry 1998.4 Religion says that the world is ﬁnally hospitable to our deepest human yearnings. . perhaps even pointless universe (Perry 1998. N at u r a l L aw. 14. unresponsive. the morality of the overman. and one must give up “every like view of the universe and humanity. Or as Perry (21) puts it in a clumsy turn of phrase. But if the phrase “existential yield” is clumsy. and Perry uses the term “religious” in a wide sense to mean a view opposed to Albert Camus’ experience of absurdity. give up virtually any and every morality. . part of a universe in which every life has a purpose and a place. From this way of thinking about humanity’s place in the universe comes that well-known saying from the Talmud.” We must. not just Christianity. 26). that the world was in some way made with the human being in mind (Perry 1998. Sanhedrin 4:8 [37a]). Terms are obviously important here. Give up religion. except Nietzsche’s morality. the sentiment is not. no matter how obscure. Along the way. Perry takes on Ronald Dworkin’s conception of what it means to say that a human life is sacred. the “existential yield” of Christ’s teaching that we should “love one another as I have loved you” is a world in which we are all part of one family. and he who sustains or saves one person has sustained the whole world” (Jerusalem Talmud. becomes explicable only in Nietzsche’s terms— as a strategy by which the weak intimidate and suppress the strong. 23).
Which is not to say that identiﬁcation with distant. alien others into the human orbit. and everything to hearing sad and sentimental stories.5 ) Religion answers the question. among strangers. Religion is the greatest imaginative narrative ever told. N at u r e . working. transforming them into people like us. Richard Rorty (2001. and studying in one of several dozen countries around the world. but something along the lines of “Because this is what it is like to be in her situation—to be far from home. capable of bringing an entire universe into its creation story. 247) argued that “the emergence of the human rights culture seems to owe nothing to increased moral knowledge.” or “Because . Religion isn’t the only means by which we make ourselves at home. when they ask. a person who is no kin to me. and in so doing bring distant. “Why should I think of someone who lives in Outer Mongolia as a member of the human family. “sentimental education only works on people who can relax long enough to listen” (253). “Why should I care?” Conversely. but with our own group. others cannot be taught. and so rendering the world and its inhabitants less alien. Then. including Mongolia. living. Nonetheless. a person whose habits I ﬁnd disgusting?” one can answer with the only answer that really works: not some answer about kinship and custom being morally irrelevant to obligation. even for those who would violate the rights of others. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Enough has been said about the natural law to this point that there should be no need to argue that Tinder has gone off the deep end.” As examples he refers to Aeschylus’s Persians and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Humans are creatures of imagination and narratives. Of course. even anonymous. continues Rorty. This requires the provision of basic physical and economic security.118 N a r r at i v e . evolutionary biology tells us that we are not naturally made to identify with distant others in different groups. my human family?” (The irony of this example is that these words—intended to exemplify the perspective of a parochial Westerner—might in today’s world be read by someone from Mongolia. it can be taught in such a way that anonymous others no longer exist. “Why should I care about a stranger. the question remains: What does someone say to a person who asks. Indeed.
and let it go at that? Because what Perry really wants. . and Solidarity (1989). And yet. The great advantage of religion. the example to which Rorty recurs. might also have rich inner lives. the goal is not to morally prove or ground one’s obligation to another. as it turns out. 254–255). then why not simply conclude that religion and novels that foster a sentimental education are likely to reinforce each other. and with the subjective individual came a subject of rights. a n d L o c k e 119 her mother would grieve for her” (Rorty 2001. Arthur Allen Leff (1974) characterizes the deﬁnitional strategy as follows. as we say in social science. it would be equally mistaken to dismiss the possibility that novels could reﬂect and transmit changes in the larger culture. but to emotionally cultivate it. it is no coincidence that the greatest novels of psychological identiﬁcation of the eighteenth century. from this perspective. in both his essay on human rights (2001) and Contingency. which is given. is that it is based upon community and ritual. if Lynn Hunt (2007. but the ability to deploy it so as to imagine that others unlike oneself. the Judeo-Christian religion brings to the living of daily life a narrative of love. And. 35–69) is correct in Inventing Human Rights. is Truth. which together create a sacred space and a sense of the transcendent. Irony. With this imagination. What’s the connection? Widely read. N at u r a l L aw. consider how more unlikely it is that this love. At its best. were published in the period that immediately preceded the appearance of the rights of man. If this is so. if this sounds unlikely. and Rousseau’s Julie (1761).H u m a n R i g h t s . Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1747–1748). More precisely put. In other words. the individual was born. members of the underclass. if Hunt is a little too quick to attribute causation to correlation. these novels helped develop not the capacity for empathy. And. he wants to transform the experience of the sacred into a “foundational claim. including servants. would come from reading novels at home.” so as to have an answer to the “deﬁnitional” strategy. This is very hard to get from sitting alone in one’s room reading books. or at least active identiﬁcation with the suffering of others.
” It does not matter whether you experience human life as sacred. we are all members of the same human family. as in “I deﬁne human life as sacred because humans were created by a Supreme Being. It doesn’t matter whether you or I believe this to be true. not absurd. as a result. early in one’s game.” but “a matter of how things really are. (quoted in Perry 1998. as a conclusion. of course. What Dworkin is trying to do. in a whisper. or by deﬁning it as so.” or “sacred to me.” . it is as though we are honoring an instance of sacred art (Dworkin. and then later slipping it through. What matters for the purposes of the current argument is that Perry. whomever or whatever one chooses to call The Supreme Being. Only this guarantees that the world we live in is a meaningful place to share with one’s fellow humans—that is. is to separate the experience of the sacred from religion. 28). It’s just a deﬁnition that invokes religion. In honoring the individual human. Calling it religious doesn’t make it any less deﬁnitional. The difference is that Perry doesn’t know it. 29) The problem is that the experience of the sacred isn’t a foundation. like Leff. 1993). N at u r e . Human life really is sacred. Perry would create a sacred foundation via an act of deﬁnition. or not.120 N a r r at i v e . but not for the purposes of the current argument. as if one could argue that the awe Dworkin refers to is akin to a religious or spiritual attitude. it matters more than one can say. Not for Perry (1998. a mysterious creative masterpiece whose destruction causes us to recoil in horror. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw There is today no way of “proving” that napalming babies is bad except by asserting it (in a louder and louder voice). Or rather. who argues that sacred is an objective experience. even though it does not take place within the framework of organized religion. is pursuing a deﬁnitional strategy. arguing that Ronald Dworkin has it wrong when he claims that life is sacred because we feel awe at the complex creative process that produces the single human organism. not a matter of “sacred to you. and the only argument that can back that up is the claim that sacredness stems from the fact that we are all created in His name.
following Karl Popper. The best answer to those who are not sure that it is wrong to napalm babies is to tell stories. On the contrary. All this isn’t to say that our choices must become arbitrary or irrational decisions—“decisionism. This strategy is feasible. stresses the way in which a critical attitude toward truth claims in philosophy. Albert (1985). in which every challenged claim is met by another claim which is in turn challenged.” as it is called. then the answer is that all fundamental assertions have this property. Hans Albert (1985. Not for natural law to be possible. Perry makes the third choice. At some point. N at u r a l L aw. a n d L o c k e 121 If the reader is concerned about why an argument asserting religion or God has the quality of a deﬁnition. such as whether God has ordered the universe so as to render human life sacred. 18–21) has called the problem that leads to this result the Münchhausen Trilemma. An inﬁnite regress. A dogmatic breaking off of the search for fundamental grounds at a certain point. and thus this strategy cannot provide a certain foundation. probably the most widely practiced.H u m a n R i g h t s . Rorty calls for “sad and . but it means an unjustiﬁed abandonment of the principle of sufﬁcient reason. reason alone will not see us through. A logical circle. after the fabled Baron who tried to pull himself out of the swamp by his own pigtail. but for Perry’s version to make sense. 3. in which the stated claim is found to rest on statements that have already shown themselves to require foundation. it becomes impractical to go any further. is quite possible. Socrates represents such a critical attitude. and not merely tautological foundations) choices: 1. 2. The idea is that any claim to fundamental foundations must in the end be characterized by one of three unacceptable (in terms of the search for meaningful. characterized by arguments that do not close the door to further argument. Faith (ﬁdem) must be blended with reason. One might also argue (and this would be my preference) that about fundamental metaphysical matters.
and perhaps millions more to at least pretend they do. You can elaborate upon your religious story. stories about humanity’s place in the universe. Stories about God’s love for us. such as the famous image from the Vietnam War of a young girl running naked down a dirt road. but more often than not argue from the heart. (Her name is Phan Thi . Images are equally important. and for many. her skin burned from the napalm jelly that appears to be still clinging to her. As long as one believes in the core elements of the stories one is telling. trying to convince another that your story really resonates with his or her inner experience. searching for a lingua franca. inspire millions to care for each other.” the point of convergence of different theoretical traditions.6 If someone questions your religious story. and the photo can be found by Googling “napalm girl photo. It was at this point that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written and ratiﬁed. But stories are not always enough. his or her deepest desire to feel at home in this world. you have a choice. may be more compelling. about His charge that we love one another as He has loved us. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw sentimental stories.” but in this case “graphic and horrifying” stories would be more appropriate. what Maritain refers to as “grosso modo. built as it is on feelings of love and care that assume a systematic theology. Napalming babies occurred during the Vietnam War. Or you can try to tell your story in a different idiom.122 N a r r at i v e . and the religious like conversions. N at u r e . . then the search for a common story would not seem to violate the principles of Rawls’s overlapping consensus. Kim Phúc. the intuitive ways of knowing he called connatural knowledge. cosmological stories. it might be the natural law of Jacques Maritain. Academics like narratives. It is worth remembering that politics is sometimes about laying your body on the line for what you believe.” where one can also ﬁnd a touching interview with her. religious stories. for still others. civil disobedience was the answer. which is but another way of saying feeling loved. For some. others for months or years. this might be evolutionary biology. which is sometimes better than nothing. Some went to prison for a night. Millions of converts have been made in this way.) For those with a more systematic cast of mind.
but refers to the rights of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government solely in terms of “natural rights.” never once referring to or mentioning natural law again. separated from his writings about the natural law. In The Evolution of International Human Rights. To put it simply. These authors agree that John Locke’s writings on natural right constitute the modern foundation of human rights thinking. Frequently this disagreement is fruitful. Pogge. Trouble is. and the Natural Law Substantial disagreement about the status of human rights exists among those who write professionally on the topic— that is. 12. which culminates in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other postwar human rights documents. there comes a time to choose the actions of the ﬂesh over words. In Making Sense of Human Rights. never once mentioning the natural law background to his thought. a reading one would never imagine from the way in which Locke’s natural rights are presented to the undergraduate and graduate reader. Paul Lauren (2003. 92–93) treats Locke strictly as a natural rights theorist. in order that our words might have meaning. James Nickel (2007. N at u r a l L aw. and Perry. Jesus Christ is “The Word made Flesh” (John 1:14). a n d L o c k e 123 Bodies often speak more eloquently than words. almost always it is thoughtful. Locke would grant men natural rights so that they might follow the natural law. such as Ignatieff. those who include within their primary audience other experts. Such disagreement is generally lacking among those who write the readers and textbooks that introduce the ﬁeld of international human rights to a growing body of undergraduate and graduate students. 15) mentions natural law and Locke in the same breath. Locke’s writings on natural right are presented in a vacuum. John Locke. For mere mortals. in which they are embedded.H u m a n R i g h t s . rising above the usual academic drone. . Human Rights.
than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker. by with-holding that relief. enslave them. (para. hold that natural law.9 Locke also recognized a general duty to assist in the preservation of humanity. not natural rights. to force him to become his Vassal. Ashcraft 1987). and property. including a duty of charity to those who have no other means of subsistence. 42) This is the language. . The result of such an interpretation is that Locke’s natural law is fundamentally no different than Hobbes’ natural law: one’s only “obligation” is to one’s own life and property. 110.124 N a r r at i v e . he was primarily making a claim about the duties we have under natural law toward others: duties not to kill them. When Locke claimed we possess the rights of life. whose mastery of esoteric writing concealed his unbelief. God requires him to afford to the wants of his Brother. the relationship of Locke to natural law is a complicated affair. master him to his Obedience. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw In The History of Human Rights. as will keep him from extreme want. 578) treats Locke strictly as a natural rights theorist. Charity gives every Man a Title to so much out of another’s Plenty. The social contract is merely a more efﬁcient means to fulﬁll this obligation. 88. or to steal from them. assuming (and this is a common assumption) that the social contract is designed to enforce our natural rights. the state of nature is designed to reveal our basic rights and duties under the natural law (Dunn 2003.7 Many scholars. where he has no means to subsist otherwise. 285. of the natural law. and with a Dagger at his Throat offer him Death or Slavery. N at u r e . For Locke. and a Man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity. a few scholars following the lead of Leo Strauss in arguing that Locke was an atheist. is primary for Locke: natural rights exist so that we can perform our obligations under the natural law8 (Dunn 1969. Consider Locke’s language in the First Treatise of Government. however. To be sure. liberty. and thinking. Micheline Ishay (2008. 57. 53–54).
as well as fosters a certain modesty about our knowledge overall. To be sure. and with it a law. This need not be the case. Under this state of nature. a n d L o c k e 125 In other words. or rather that every individual has direct access to the natural law.11). Locke seems to assert the existence of innate ideas. 1. For it leads Locke to set limits to what the natural law may know. 53–54). Here was the crux of the problem for Locke. .5–25).” But perhaps this confusion is our own. Locke was increasingly troubled by the question of how men could distinguish the dictates of natural law from the prejudices of their own society (Dunn 2003. Locke’s chief intellectual problem is not. 252]). “so plain was it writ in the Hearts of all Mankind. . To mention just one. This appreciation of the fallibility of human minds in grasping the natural law. as though Locke must deny the natural law if he denies the existence of innate ideas. “God . in the Second Treatise of Government (2. Locke defends a theory of moral knowledge that denies the existence of innate ideas (1975. there are contradictions within Locke’s own treatment of the natural law. in An Essay concerning Human Understanding. God granted humans sufﬁcient reason to know the basics. Locke’s state of nature is the condition of men and women under the natural law. before governments are established. in The Reasonableness of Christianity (1958.H u m a n R i g h t s . contradictions that reﬂect his modesty about the claims of human knowledge. gave him [man] reason. But from at least the early 1680s until the end of his life. the fundamental task of men and women is to determine the laws under which God intended them to live—that is. in the end. Locke seems to have come to the view that even if men are unable to know the natural law through the use of pure reason. However. 75 [para. as well as the capacity to observe it.2. which Locke saw in terms of the tendency of men to see in natural law the prejudices of their own place and time. whether men and women can know natural law through an act of unaided human reason. to ﬁgure out the natural law. He had no doubt that humans have the ability and the duty to understand the natural law. Toward the end of his life. is the greatness of his thinking about the topic. N at u r a l L aw. .
” Add to this surfeit of names the fact that men are generally insufﬁciently reﬂective. 180) suggests in An Essay concerning Human Understanding. and more importantly. that is. then out of this discussion. If thoughtful men and women would come together and talk about the fundamentals of the natural law.126 N a r r at i v e . N at u r e . at least in the seventeenth century.” This is standard natural law thinking. and the prejudices that so many of these misjudgments reﬂect. This may not seem to be asking a lot. continued to live different ways of life insofar as they concern laws. But if reason is a weak faculty. but Locke is quite aware that it is the exception. if they would but listen to each other and themselves. If. 4. is that men become confused because “they perhaps confound one another with different Names. its real but imperfect authority may be strengthened by a knowledge of its . when men come together they usually ﬁnd “their simple ideas all generally to agree. A key element in achieving and sustaining such a consensus is Locke’s recognition of its limitations.10). our duty to provide charity to others in need. or steal from each other.” then it must be something else that accounts for the apparent diversity of their ideas. enslave. It would be more than a political compromise. The participants would agree on fundamental principles. and customs not covered by the natural law. For Locke. the key problem remains one of how men might distinguish genuine natural laws from the contingencies and prejudices of the society in which they happen to live.12. says Locke. begun in a babble of tongues. If. By this he means that humans should not try to know too much by the power of reason. men would not just talk with each other. our duties not to harm. but reﬂect on what they and others are saying. as Locke (1975. general agreement would come to pass. The answer. based on what Locke calls the “mediocrity” of human understanding (1975. and the result is that they are frequently unaware that in fact they stand in agreement about the basics. even if they continued to use different names. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw that could not be otherwise than what reason should dictate. for unaided reason is a weak faculty. traditions. Such an agreement would participate in what Rawls calls an overlapping consensus.
even when aided by Divine intercession.H u m a n R i g h t s . of which there are many. are the product of civilization and progress. or to copyright protection.3. and in The Reasonableness of Christianity (1958). 3. failed men in its great and proper place in morality. should lead us to be modest in what we claim for natural law—that it binds us not to kill. from unquestionable principles. is somehow on a par with the rights with which Locke is concerned? . by a willingness to reﬂect honestly upon what one knows. or could know. the template of so many human rights instruments. a n d L o c k e 127 limits. made out an entire body of the law of Nature” (61 [para. by clear deductions. Not the unfathomable character of natural law. and to be paid accordingly. He never accomplishes this derivation. 4. Can we really say that the right to a paid holiday. This has led some to conclude that Locke’s speculations about natural law are either incoherent or a failure. that human reason unassisted. particularly his failed struggle in An Essay concerning Human Understanding to derive natural law from ﬁrst principles. N at u r a l L aw. Consider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. the need for Divine assistance. It is in this vein that we should understand all the twists and turns Locke takes to get to this point. remains the most difﬁcult temptation for many human rights theorists to resist. 241]). One might as readily conclude that he understands the weakness of men’s minds. Other good things. while requiring us to exhibit charity to all in need. It never. or steal from others. Article 24 asserts the right to “periodic holidays with pay.” Article 27 asserts the right to be recognized as the creator of one’s intellectual property. but the mediocrity of men’s minds. the collaboration of others.11. enslave. not dictates of the natural law. Relevance to International Human Rights Such modesty about the natural law—avoiding the tendency to locate all good things under the natural law.16.18–20). and above all. distinguishing this knowledge from what one wishes one knows. much in the way mathematics is derived (1975. and the fact that even this offers no guarantee. states simply that “ ’tis plain in fact.
there is no need to recast every statement about human rights into the language of the natural law. because it is about these that an . that is so speciﬁc that it allows us to know that individuals have a natural right to join a union. then our natural law will be about only the most basic things. There is no substantial difference between proclaiming the ‘right to life’ and stating that natural law forbids killing. Not just. expressing in terms of rights the duties and obligations we are bound to fulﬁll under the natural law. enjoy the arts (Article 27). but a political compromise that devalues both the natural law and natural rights. However. have access to a professional education (Article 26). or even primarily. (214) There is no reason we should not continue to speak in terms of human rights. it is useful to remember from time to time that any sensible discussion of natural rights assumes its foundation in the natural law. from which human rights are derived. Better that we see human rights as the complement of the natural law. [H]uman rights are the modern version of natural law theory . the most grievous injuries. As Leszek Kolakowski (1990) puts it. can we even claim to know that “periodic holidays with pay” has the status of a human right? What would this mean? When one claims knowledge of the natural law.128 N a r r at i v e . the most fundamental wrongs. . one is claiming a knowledge that presumably does not exist. . . and If we take seriously Locke’s further warnings about the tremendous potential of humans to confuse their traditions and customs with the natural law. This is no longer an overlapping consensus. and If we take seriously Locke’s warnings about the “mediocrity” of human understanding. this has consequences: If we take the natural law seriously. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw More fundamentally. N at u r e . Furthermore. and be secure in the knowledge that they will be recognized and paid for the use of their intellectual property.
it is a way of life (Waters 2008). make in the subsistence agricultural economies under which about half of the world’s population still lives?11 Furthermore. What sense does a right to join a trade union. 163–173). 169) argues that human rights are universal. They do not and should not depend in any way upon the situation of the person to whom they pertain. N at u r a l L aw. a n d L o c k e 129 overlapping consensus can be achieved. Negative human rights Negative human rights is another term that has been employed to capture this vision of a real but limited natural law.” or to share in the fruits of the arts and sciences. historically. And of course even then there is no guarantee. or “periodic holidays with pay. decent health care. and Isaiah Berlin’s (1969) distinction between negative and positive liberty. and the like.10 In a loosely analogous fashion.” Berlin refers to means that might allow me to fulﬁll some of my hopes and dreams more fully. They are rights that pertain to an individual merely by virtue of being a human being. or copyright protection. and socially situated minds to know. Maurice Cranston (2001. With the term “negative liberty. it stems from an attempt to draw an analogy between negative and positive human rights. whose content roughly follows that outlined above (Cranston 2001. but because about more than this it is difﬁcult for mediocre culturally.” Berlin refers to the removal of impediments to my action and the right of self-governance. in the end not every good thing falls under the concept of liberty. The social (positive) rights that begin with about Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are simply inapplicable in large parts of the world. many willingly choose to practice subsistence agriculture. Rights that assume that an individual lives in a particular Western industrial order cannot be universal. Subsistence agriculture is not just a way of farming.H u m a n R i g h t s . The term “negative” is not pejorative. . such as a good education. With the term “positive liberty. compared with the real available alternatives. Berlin concludes that while positive liberty might indeed enhance my liberty.
Developing countries. The comments in the last paragraph are my own. 17). concludes Cranston (172). one might argue. aspirational human rights. as well as an “is” demand (Weston 1992. N at u r e . have their place. particularly. Let us not call the political rights that are ﬁtting to these economies “universal human rights. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw The Universal Declaration was written with a certain type of industrial economy at a certain stage of development in mind. aspirational human rights make no unreasonable demands. Still. one that may not want them. but they are compatible with Cranston’s (2001) point about the tendency to push all talk of human rights out of the clear realm of the morally compelling into the twilight world of utopian aspiration. In the Universal Declaration of 1948 there indeed occurs the phrase a “common standard of achievement” which brands the Declaration as an attempt to translate rights into ideals. and there is no reason not to see human rights as possessing an ideal. but that they are trivialized. this is precisely how the natural law would conceive of human rights: as the duties we have toward others.130 N a r r at i v e . though of course one expects that it not hinder attempts at international aid for political purposes. at least in the form in which they are offered. may beneﬁt from a moral road map. and the great danger is not only that they are ignored. Though he does not mention the natural law. as expressed (in this case) by the tendency to extrapolate ideal social and economic conditions in one’s own society onto an entire world. or “ought” component. Furthermore. And however else one might choose to deﬁne moral rights. as they are called. (172) Rights. Even civil rights may be violated in a very poor society without the society itself being held in contempt . they are plainly not ideals or aspirations. They are what is demanded by the basic norms of morality or justice.” Especially now that we understand that human rights are an expression of natural law. are obligations. A very poor society in the midst of a famine is not expected to provide everyone the means of subsistence if it is physically unable to do so. They establish aims and ideals. by forgetting the mediocrity of the human mind.
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of international human rights if the society simply lacks the means to protect all its citizens. Manifesto rights, a frequent synonym for aspirational rights, require us to think about what particular societies are capable of, lending a degree of social and national speciﬁcity to human rights that would otherwise be lacking (Pogge 2001, 202–205). Against this argument it is hard to disagree. At the most fundamental level, human rights exist to make human lives better, not to justify their own foundations. The only question is whether aspirational or manifesto rights do not end up weakening or trivializing the basics, which are themselves in constant danger. The rights to life, liberty, property, and the means of subsistence are threatened all over the world. If one wishes to add another right, then integrity of the person would seem the place to start, for it is both natural law and natural right to respect and protect the integrity of the person against rape and other grievous infringements, offenses that seem to have become a part of civil war (if that is what it is, and not just rampage) in some parts of the world. To put these rights on a par with the right to join a trade union, paid holidays, and a chance to appreciate the arts somehow doesn’t just miss the point, it trivializes the point. As long as the aspirational or manifesto rights with which Pogge and others are concerned remain at the level of assuring basic human dignity, there is no problem. The problem arises when Western standards of industrial life become the measure of the good life. Not only is that not possible for all, it may not even be desirable. Certainly the natural law is not going to be very helpful here. For that humans minds are simply too mediocre. To claim for the natural law one particular Western way of life risks committing precisely the error Locke warns us against, confusing our circumstances and traditions with the natural law itself. Previous chapters have emphasized love and pity over reason. Maritain’s inclinations seem a more powerful way of thinking about natural law than Thomistic reason, or rather a more powerful interpretation of the traditional Thomistic way of thinking about inclination. But about international human rights, Locke
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is in some ways a breath of fresh air. It is said we suffer from “compassion fatigue.” Certainly we suffer from a surfeit of images of suffering. Locke reminds us that natural law is not just about compassion and love. Natural law is about duty: our duty not to kill, enslave, or take the possessions of others, our duty of charity, and our duty to intervene when we see these things happening, as Locke talks about our duty to restrain, and even kill, a murderer in the state of nature (Second Treatise of Government, 2.11). He is not just talking about self-defense. Duty, love, and pity do not contradict each other. Love, pity, and intuition deserve the greater emphasis when reason seems to be getting all the attention. Duty deserves extra emphasis when empathy seems to be doing all the work. Or not enough. Locke’s duty, it is important to point out, is not self-given. That is, Locke’s duty is not Kantian (Locke was born more than a century before Kant). Locke’s is an older sense of duty, not assumed as part of human freedom, but taken up as a duty owed to nature and nature’s God. Or as Václav Havel states,
Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can genuinely value himself and his neighbors and thus honor their rights as well . . . . It seems that man can realize that liberty [given him by the Creator in the United States Bill of Rights] only if he does not forget the One who endowed him with it.”12
It is on this basis that the United States, a model of human rights to the world (always a ﬂawed model—after Abu Ghraib even more so), was built.
Respecting otherness is negative human rights
One thinks back to Niebuhr’s criticism of Thomas’s conﬁdence in reason, always overstated, not to say off the mark when applied to Maritain, who understood better than any the role of love in the natural law. Nevertheless, Niebuhr (2008, 222–224) is not wrong to caution us that arrogance and vanity infects everything we do, including our claims about the natural law. We become vain because we forget that we are not just creators,
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but creatures. To this analysis Niebuhr adds another dimension, what can only be called a respect for the otherness that exists in this world, and which is known best through participation in community. The only humility that works, suggests Niebuhr, grows not out of a sense of justice, or duty. A belief strictly in justice and duty leads invariably to injustice, as it leads the just man or woman to become overly conﬁdent in his or her possession of justice, and to an overly narrow interpretation of his or her duty (2008, 138). The only humility that works is one that grows out of the experience of belonging to a community. From this experience, if we are fortunate, we may learn not only that we need one another, but also that about other ways of life, “that other unique community is the limit beyond which our ambitions must not run and the boundary beyond which our life must not expand” (2008, 139). Listening to others, attending to their stories, is the beginning, but only the beginning. Niebuhr constructs his argument in response to George F. Kennan’s (1985) claim that the national interest should be the touchstone of our foreign policy. While there is an ethical element to Kennan’s argument, namely that we are much more likely to know what is good for us than what is good for others, Niebuhr (2008, 148) seems correct to label Kennan’s position as “egotism.” However, the larger framework of Niebuhr’s argument can be seen as ﬁlling in Havel’s statement about our having lost touch with our status as created beings. Indeed, this is the leitmotif of Niebuhr’s work: not just the recognition that we are members of a universal order, but that we are created to live with our neighbors who have not just rights, and toward whom we possess not just duties (though both are important), but others who possess an otherness that properly evokes awe and respect from which justice and duty ﬂow. Respecting this otherness reﬂects the negative view of human rights at its most profound. A negative approach to human rights is in no way minimal. On the contrary, it reﬂects maximal respect for the otherness of the other individual, the other community, the other way of life, recognizing that while we have obligations to this other, our most profound obligation is to let
At other times it involves simply letting the other be. and frequently with the other. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw the other be. Sometimes this respect requires love. with ourselves. .134 N a r r at i v e . care. N at u r e . That is. even going to war on behalf of the other. or the community’s own way. About such a delicate balancing act mute intuition will only get us started. but who ever said it would be? This is why we need to talk about what we are doing. charity. to let the other live and ﬂourish in his. Getting the balance right is no easy matter. her.
. for that it remains. reﬂective element of natural law—that while natural law is based in nature. including anthropology. acting upon it as we act upon emotions such as pity. empathy. even if one cannot explain it at the time. even if we can eventually ﬁnd ways of talking about the ineffable. The second deﬁnition. Natural law is less something we know than feel. its developmental goal.” The second understands natural law as “written on the heart. Furthermore. sympathy. human nature at its fully developed best. the nature upon which reason reﬂects has little to do with empirical. The nature with which rational natural law is concerned is human nature as it could be. stresses the less rational. assumes a prelinguistic consciousness: there are things we can know as surely as we know anything that we cannot put into words.Chapter 6 Conclusion: Evil and the L i m i t s o f t h e N at u r a l L aw Two deﬁnitions of the natural law compete. Such knowledge. The ﬁrst sees natural law as “reason reﬂecting upon nature.” The ﬁrst stresses the rational. everyday nature as it is studied by science. or just knowing the right thing to do in a particular situation. natural law as written on the heart. more intuitive dimension of natural law. it is known through reason. Human nature that has realized its telos.
Several relatively recent essays and books on international human rights refer to a report by David Rieff in the New Yorker of a Serbian atrocity. For thousands of years. Damiens attempted the regicide of Louis XV in 1757. Muslim prisoners. 241–242) Rorty goes on to argue that the “moral to be drawn” from Rieff’s account of Serbian atrocities is that the men who do . There has never been a campaign of ethnic cleansing from which sexual sadism has gone missing. David Rieff said. to cutting off his prick . If you say that a man is not human. lying on the ground in rows. evoking painful feelings (but almost never bodily pain itself) in the sensitive bystander. . . . . because I want to make a point about Rorty. N at u r e . the Muslims are no longer human . and so should never be tolerated. and yet whatever words I can put to that experience will never be adequate to the experience. Rorty 2001. .136 N a r r at i v e . is an example of the type of knowledge that is written on the heart. however. Worth pointing out. Richard Rorty’s use of Rieff is quoted. (Rieff 1992. [was] forced to bite off the penis of a fellow-Muslim . the pain inﬂicted by torture was tolerated (and sometimes idealized) by various societies. . but the man looks like you and the only way to identify this devil is to make him drop his trousers—Muslim men are circumcised and Serb men are not—it is probably only a short step. “To the Serbs.” This theme of dehumanization recurs when Rieff says. in this case Robert-François Damiens. In a report from Bosnia some months ago. even if my shrieks and cries and moans can be remarkably evocative. were driven over by a Serb guard in a small delivery van. . . and still is. Just read the opening pages of Michel Foucault’s (1995) Discipline and Punish for a description of how men and women may take joy in the public dismemberment of a human being. Knowledge that torture causes terrible pain. awaiting interrogation. is that the heart is not isolated from history and culture. . I know when I am in pain. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Pain might be a good example of what it means for knowledge to be written on the heart. A Muslim man in Bosanski Petrovac . psychologically.
is on the surface. (21) Let’s ignore the “duty” and “adequacy” claims. 248) assumes that nothing “deep” is going on. In this sense. just not of a very healthy type? The fact that Rorty is committed to the view that everything important. In particular. What would lead Rorty to make such a claim. coupled with the presence of sexual sadism in ethnic cleansing. [It] is essential to my view that we have no prelinguistic consciousness to which language needs to be adequate. and language is adequate or not depending upon the use to which it is put. let us consider the central claim that Rorty seems to be making— that a complete explanation of Serbian or Nazi atrocities can be given that argues that the offenders were unfortunate in being brought up in an environment in which they were not . 242–244. Rorty makes a number of sensible suggestions. Rorty (2001. and Solidarity. Serbian and Nazi war criminals were simply not so lucky in the circumstances of their upbringing. As Rorty (1989) puts it in Contingency. Instead. They simply do not see Muslims as humans like themselves. for different philosophers have different duties. they are deﬁcient in moral imagination. Nor are they less rational than those who treat others well. Irony. that progress in seeing the fruitlessness of debates between followers of Plato and Nietzsche over “What is our nature?” is similar to the progress that is made when one recognizes that those who commit gross abuses of human rights are not evil or sadistic monsters. If there are psychological depths. and so of the capacity to develop a sense of empathy for others (Rorty 2001. at least as far as philosophy is concerned. 253). suggests that there is in fact a great deal of imagination going on. no deep sense of how things are which it is the duty of philosophers to spell out in language.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 137 them are not wicked or evil. but it is here I want to pause—at Rorty’s assumption that the failure of the Serbian moral imagination is sufﬁcient to explain atrocity. especially since Rieff’s reference to the devil. They were deprived of a sense of security and sympathy. they need not be plumbed.
Similarly. evil things. Why does this seem so absurd? One reason is because of the disproportion between the terrible torments inﬂicted by the torturers and murderers. The history that we live may become hell. a nightmare of a society. and so we should not reject an explanation that highlights this absurdity out of hand. What Rorty’s explanation overlooks (or rather. a failure that might be interpreted as a failure in empathy. 76. N at u r e . 72). and the explanation on the other. less pleasant things. destructive things. They were not taught this because it was not part of their culture’s way of thinking. 253). The natural law has not always paid enough attention to evil. does not allow to come into existence) is that so many of the most terrible abuses of human rights seem to involve an element of sadism. 1). a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw taught to be sensitive (i. on the one hand. the world may be absurd. The belief that natural law is written on the heart (a less elevated way of talking about “prelinguistic consciousness”) allows the possibility that other things are written there too. Their way of life redounded to corrupt reason and understanding itself. what is ordinarily called evil. desires that are not immediately accessible to language. The German robbers lived a way of life that expressed and perpetuated an “evil disposition of nature. “l’univers concentrationnaire . An evil that challenged ordinary morality. including the natural law (Maritain 1951. but the tradition of the natural law understands the darkness of the human heart.. . it was not merely that they failed to understand that robbing their neighbors was wrong. to develop an empathic imagination) to others unlike themselves (2001. and because the conditions of life must be sufﬁciently safe so that one’s security does not depend on devaluing others. pleasure in destruction for its own sake.e. Maritain understood that history is providential only in the long run. As Thomas pointed out about the German robbers.138 N a r r at i v e . .” one that has brought an undreamt-of evil into the world. sexual or otherwise—that is. Is the Holocaust a failure of empathy? Is forcing one man to bite off the penis of another a failure of imaginative identiﬁcation? To be sure. expressed in acts of evil that .” so that reason itself became wicked (ST I–II.
4). 121–122) Natural law has sometimes hesitated to grant evil a sufﬁciently prominent place. part 1. evil is the absence of good. Though he was no natural law theorist. Instead. book 3. Consider a familiar example used by countless generations of teachers to explain Augustine’s view of evil. except as the privation of the good (Summa Contra Gentiles. the intentional destruction of the beautiful and good because it is beautiful and good. It must present the struggle between Eros and Death. a passage cited by Aquinas to make the same point as Augustine: evil does not exist. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of. That’s what Augustine means by evil. Sigmund Freud wrote late in his life about the conﬂict between love and death (by which he meant hatred and destruction) as the force that made the world go around. then evil as the privation of the good comes close to the death drive that Freud writes about: pleasure in destruction. and God makes only good. imagine that evil is the deliberate rending of the fabric.1 Aquinas came close to this view in practice. Even Augustine had to struggle with his apparent pleasure in the destruction of some pears simply out of satisfaction in their ruin. I think.” says Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:4). between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction. or so countless teachers have taught their students. Augustine held this view because he believed that the world and everything in it is made by God. “Every creature of God is good. . and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 139 beggar the imagination. (Freud 1930. c. the hole has the quality of nothingness where something good should be. that of a lovely garment spoiled by a rent in the fabric. On the contrary. And now. understanding the way in which the heart could become corrupt. Evil is not an active force in its own right. The tear in the fabric is nothing substantial. The reason goes back to Saint Augustine’s view of evil as privation of the good. If so. the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. as it works itself out in the human species.
one that will whisper insistently to us when it is time to stop. the natural law serves more as dilemma than guideline. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Coming out of a religious tradition that attributes all things to a Providential God. they must trust themselves to a higher logic that cannot be written or prescribed in advance. book 7). Maritain wrestled with the topic in the most serious vein. trust themselves to be able to step into history without being merely logical.”2 And if the logical conclusion is total adaptation to a corrupted environment. such as the killing of evildoers. Ethics. Natural law owes its confrontation with evil to its biblical roots. but still be too weak-willed to do it (N. or weakness of will: one could want to do right. the sheer malevolence that the concept of evil evokes was absent in the Greek understanding altogether. For even as Augustine and Aquinas fail to confront evil . For Plato’s Socrates. then men and women must. social relativity. evil was a matter of ignorance. against genocide. Even when the natural law whispers to us that it is time to stop. N at u r e . unless perhaps one turns to an unusual tragedy. In these circumstances. will our fear and fury prevent us from listening? These remarks are made to remind the reader that natural law’s emphasis on the human good must not be misinterpreted so as to make light of the active presence of human evil in history.140 N a r r at i v e . One did wrong only because one failed to understand that doing right would make one happier in the long run (Meno 77c–78b). Nor is this a dilemma to be dismissed lightly. understanding that against the concentration camp. and those who abet them. Having come face-to-face with the terrible twentieth century. it seems. and we. The memory of evil has little to do with natural law’s Greek heritage. Aristotle understood the possibility of what the Greeks called akrasia. men and women who hold to the natural law are themselves drawn into “historical. as the good itself seems to require evil. However. For if men and women cannot act in an evil world without becoming evil. Or rather. shall have no choice but to become evil ourselves if we are not to become mere bystanders to horror. such as Euripides’ Medea. then they. natural law has often unwillingly confronted evil.
nor in evolutionary natural law. . sometimes by confrontation with evil. Its goodness must be cultivated. who states that today “the necessity of [the] moral law is sustained no longer by belief in reason but by a memory of horror” Ignatieff 2001. but also by what it recoils against: the sheer brutality and terror of so much of contemporary experience. . in intensity as well as scale. the moral law was never sustained by reason alone. for whom evil would become the good. is there room for Milton’s Satan. The heart is complex. due to a deprived upbringing. and ﬁlled with contradiction. the instincts of the human heart. even if the natural law too has sometimes turned away from the disturbing reality of the allure of destruction. 109–111) writes. All these evil things [poneros ] come from within and deﬁle the man (Mark 7:21–23. King James version). it has become even clearer that the better instincts of the heart are driven not only by what it loves. Here is an evil vein that runs deep in the human heart.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 141 head-on. Consider the evil about which Saul Friedländer (1993. Here is no mere failure of imaginative identiﬁcation. 80)?4 Yes and no. . Only the natural law tells a story about the human heart that is sufﬁciently complex that it could become a place where good and evil battle unto death—not just of the individual. out of the heart of men. Would it be fair to say that Jacques Maritain comes to hold to the position of Michael Ignatieff. “For from within. Here is no mere absence of goodness. nor the new natural law. For Maritain. natural law knows the malevolence of the heart.” The same heart that knows natural law knows evil. proceed evil [kakos ] .3 Neither in Rorty’s account. Sometimes the natural law seems to require acts that would themselves otherwise violate . the intoxicating ecstasy (Rausch) that seized the leading architects of the Holocaust as the goal of eliminating an entire people seemed within their grasp. its presence in the Judeo-Christian tradition enriches the narrative possibilities of natural law. But since the terrible twentieth century. but by connaturality. but the species. Even goodness is not enough. Steeped in the biblical narrative of good and evil.
Above all. with no clear warrant (certainly not our own) that we are acting with proper authority. an issue for which there is no easy answer. but little guidance as to the type of action. The existential burden of choice is not lifted from us by the natural law. including the use of deadly force. while requiring us to exhibit charity to those in need. that we do not claim for the natural law more than it can bear. natural law must become subject to the dialectic (to use the term in its oldfashioned sense of dialogue) if the natural law is not to become the idiosyncratic preserve of individuals. Rather. nor that we abandon its principles in order to act. the natural law only intensiﬁes the burden. What we may expect of ourselves is that we do not hide behind the natural law in order to preserve our moral integrity. . Beyond this we are left on our own—to the wisdom of the community. its proper status. The locus of the natural law is private. 41) meant: accepting responsibility for all that I choose. We know that the natural law forbids us from killing. as Maritain suggests. On the contrary. We believe we know that the natural law entitles us to take the law of nature into our own hands when there is no other to enforce it. 1999. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw the natural law. enslaving.142 N a r r at i v e . but its content must be shared. N at u r e . we must take upon ourselves the burden of acting in the name of the natural law. The term “existential burden of choice” means not only what Jean-Paul Sartre (1956. What is this reﬂection about? About what is written on the heart. We believe we know that the natural law forbids gross assaults on the integrity of the person. 708. individual. such as the taking of life in order to save more lives. International human rights provide some guidelines as to what constitutes a violation of human life sufﬁcient to require action on the part of others. perhaps this is all we may expect of the natural law. The burden of choice also refers to accepting this responsibility in light of Locke’s insight into the mediocrity of men’s minds when confronted with the claims of the natural law. But. or stealing from others. In other words. to our own reﬂection enhanced by discussion with others. rather than the shared insight of the community.
and more practical everyday knowledge. and the destruction of natural beauty (to use four of Orwell’s examples) are wrong. . solve all political and economic problems. The second step (for looking for evil.5 One might argue that this knowledge is not the transcendent knowledge of the natural law. 94. as Thomas reminds us. this way. . you will often know when something you see or have proposed to you is offensive to the natural order. 38) When one looks at the world this way. pay attention to its particulars and try to understand why they are what they are. remove your cooperation from it. 2). thinks Orwell. based simply on looking. This won’t. when you know this. . requires that we look around us at what’s happening to others (ST I–II. procuring an abortion. one of the ﬁrst requirements of the natural law. This conviction lies at the heart of an Orwellian epistemology. Looking that is in tune with the sympathies of the human heart. and do what you can to prevent it from continuing. Part of pursuing sociability and knowledge. refuse to listen to those who offer theoretical justiﬁcations of it. Observe closely what’s going on around you. The knowledge gained represents the two sides of the same coin that is the natural law.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 143 Paying Attention The ﬁrst step in taking on this burden of choice—that is. responsibility for the natural law—is a willingness to look. is itself a transgression of the natural law. Orwell thinks that the clear eye can be sure that what is recommended is wrong—surer than the intellect can be of the upshot of any theoretical argument at a high level of abstraction. (Grifﬁths 2004. Some can only be addressed at the theoretical level . abject and systematic poverty. even with a sympathetic heart. But perhaps we need less transcendent knowledge of right and wrong. A student of George Orwell captures his moral particularism. on the one hand. his emphasis on looking closely at the world. one simply knows that kicking a coolie. . and an awareness of evil on the other. is not enough) is sharing this awareness with others. protest it. [But] In the kinds of cases that interest him. Willful ignorance of the bad.
In doing this dialectical work. however. and . First. and it is not. The urge to destroy seems to ﬂower most freely in those places and eras in which men and women are wrenched from their history and traditions. Meaninglessness that leads not only to despair. what Friedländer calls Rausch. an act that almost always ends in wickedness and corruption. we construct a narrative source of meaning against all the meaninglessness in our lives. social. but to acts of evil desperation. The urge to destroy is not simply an existential revolt against meaningless. compared and contrasted in books. that other dimension of natural law that concerns our excellence as humans. as men and women seek to impose a human order on an empty world. as well as the chance to talk about and practice the good life for humans. Rousseau. in which she writes that loneliness. It is equally Hannah Arendt’s (1973) insight in The Origins of Totalitarianism.nor overestimate this source of evil. a dimension that will include duty. in lives. the dialectic of narrative and inclinationes naturales. . . and in the world. or steal from others. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Writing books is one place to start. But the urge to destroy does not exist in an economic. The urge to destroy reﬂects a primitive pleasure. One should neither under. the stories we tell each other of good human lives well lived. it might be useful to think of natural law as comprising two parts. is closely connected with uprootedness and superﬂuousness which have been the curse of modern masses since the beginning of the industrial . Here. enslave. narrative comes into its own. as well as a duty of charity. that part referred to by Locke when he refers to our duties not to kill. in communities. There remains. but natural law requires communities of others with whom to share knowledge of the evil one has found.144 N a r r at i v e . Here. then history would be nothing but the history of destruction. Certainly this was Maritain’s (1929) insight in Three Reformers: Luther. and political vacuum. It is the insight of the personalism of Maritain and Mounier. the essence of totalitarian government. all its own. If it did. the common ground for terror. the preparation of its executioners and victims. N at u r e . and thrust into the mob. Descartes. but involves so much more.
he looked around and saw the abuse of the Irish and East Indian in the face of the will to power barely disguised as law. (241) About such an attitude one must be careful. Her great example of one who allowed his imagination to go visiting is . On the contrary. The more people’s standpoints I have present in my mind while I am pondering a given issue. On the other hand. who could deny that Burke’s concerns were unwarranted? Not even Arendt. the stronger will be my capacity for representative thinking and the more valid my ﬁnal conclusions.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 145 revolution and have become acute with the rise of imperialism at the end of the last century and the break-down of political institutions and social traditions in our own time.6 This is the theme of Reﬂections on the Revolution in France (1955). What he only rarely seemed capable of doing is what Arendt refers to as allowing “one’s imagination to go visiting.” As Arendt (1977) says.” referring to the system of democratic councils and wards established in the immediate aftermath of the French and American revolutions. The natural law is not arrived at by “representative thinking. and the better I can imagine how I would feel and think if I were in their place. Arendt (2000a) writes of this vision in “The Revolutionary Tradition and its Lost Treasure. my opinion.” not even when all the representatives are gathered in one’s own mind. there is a direct line between the concentration camp and mass society. and regrettably short lived. One need not go that far to see her point. Though Edmund Burke wrote before the rise of modern totalitarianism. Burke was not a man who failed to look around him. Where Burke differs from Arendt is in having no vision of how the radicalization of democracy might itself change this. (475) For Arendt. he shares with Arendt the insight that the uprooted and superﬂuous masses may themselves become the greatest enemy of freedom.
or the opinion of the average man. and that they are roughly the same for all men and women. N at u r e . and not cultural relativism. a new Tower of Babel.” For the same reason that John Locke concluded that people confuse themselves. representative government. or simply mutual incomprehension? For the same reason that the philosophers’ advisory committee to the UNESCO Committee drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not break down into incoherence. Participating in such dialogues is one of the most important ways humans have of paying attention to others. to putting oneself in new and unusual (marginal) situations. Arendt (2000b) thought Socrates did this. except as foil for his own. fraud. History and circumstance.7 Allowing one’s imagination to go visiting refers primarily to the ability to participate in imaginary dialogues with others. Determining when this might be is one of the hardest things in the world. Why would such dialogues foster the natural law. but sometimes—one listens to the natural law best by not listening to others. a man not known for his love of democracy. a concept that still has its place. Until that time. of course. In trusting in such dialogues. even as they often ﬁnd different cultural and historical expression. a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw Socrates. exaggerating their differences. and it may be cultivated in a variety of ways. and it is what made him a moral man. a sort of unwritten common law. in order to enrich the dialogue one might have with oneself. This assumes.146 N a r r at i v e . that the participants in such dialogues are free to participate: unconstrained by force. it is well to remember that sometimes—not always. one is trusting that inclinationes naturales exist. speaking with oneself as if one were the other person.8 Participating in such dialogues requires what is usually called empathy. Locke was right. Natural law does not exist to settle arguments Natural law does not exist to settle arguments about the best way of life. because they use different words for the same things. or false-consciousness. mutual hostility. from reading novels to talking with strangers. but found what Maritain called a “grosso modo a sort of common residue. .
or a place. but notice what King was doing: mobilizing supporters using the language of the natural law as part of the language of political persuasion. As Ignatieff (2001. . Indeed. the more skeptical we should be of those who argue on the basis of natural law. The more contentious an argument. or a time. at least when in the midst of political conﬂict. in the midst of the turmoil of the day. or even consensus. What about slavery or segregation. as well as to mobilize political constituencies. or even a consensus of peoples. That is. Was it not a valid strategy to invoke natural law against segregation. that’s the point of the natural law—that it does not depend on voting. culture. and yet we know that these practices always violated the natural law.” may we have some conﬁdence that the culture and history that Locke saw as such obstacles to the natural law have been not so much suspended as taken fully into account.C o n c l u s i o n : E v i l a n d N at u r a l L aw 147 traditions and customs. natural law does not exist to settle arguments. as Martin Luther King Jr. This is what gives natural law its power—that it is not a creation of the day. and circumstance on which to rest one’s argument. Trouble is. those who do so should be wary. 20) points out. for who can know the natural law for certain in all but the clearest cases? We should be even more skeptical about their understanding of the proper place of natural law in the human world. Only when we speak from the perspective of the common law natural law. However. are so overwhelming in their inﬂuence on the human mind that it is best not to claim the imprimatur of the natural law when we are not speaking from the perspective of the common law natural law. the language of human rights—and this applies equally to the language of natural law—is properly used as part of the moral language of political argument. Maritain’s “common residue. one wants to ﬁnd a ground outside of time. We should be skeptical about their knowledge claims. True enough. the more it divides the public. thoughtful people may reply? Most people whose voices were thought ﬁt to be heard believed both were just ﬁne at certain times and places. and certainly all this makes it tempting to turn to the natural law when. a people. did in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”? Yes. that we are not just hearing part of the story.
a n d t h e N at u r a l L aw of believing that a means of political mobilization can. and dialogue. dialectical function. they may even enrich each other.148 N a r r at i v e . N at u r e . for they are not the same. If this is so. which must include those of differing faiths. but the two functions should not be confused. There is room for both. Like international human rights. be simultaneously transformed into a natural law. Let there be no doubt that slavery and segregation violated the natural law. dialectical function in the name of righteous political struggle. one must be particularly careful not to claim for the natural law more than its due. and persuasions. lest we cheapen natural law’s discursive. One should simply understand that one is using the natural law in its political and mobilizing function. community. One may. the function that lies behind the common law natural law. One should not confuse these functions. doubt whether those who fought slavery and segregation using natural law as a rallying cry were in the best position to know the natural law. which is not the same as its discursive. There is room enough for both functions. it may well be that the founding function of natural law is less important than its political and mobilizing function. Not because knowledge of the natural law requires quiet reﬂection—perhaps natural law is sometimes best known from the victim’s end of a truncheon or ﬁre hose—but because a deep and reﬂective knowledge of the natural law takes time. . when seen from a slightly different perspective. however. natural law (like international human rights) serves several functions. beliefs. only one of which is that of providing a foundation for our beliefs. then as much as now. In other words. It is no transgression to argue that the natural law supports my claim that a certain way of life most abundantly fulﬁlls human nature.
However.edu/group/King/popular_requests/frequentdocs/birmingham. was never written into law. In the Republic. Other written evidence was also available to the Allies.N ot e s Chapter 1 1. Thrasymachus of Chalcedon is a sophist.pdf. The Endlösung. 1943. “Tract on the Popery Laws. there is no dearth of physical evidence.” 5. including Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler’s speech to a secret meeting of SS ofﬁcers in Poznan. the so-called Final Solution (the mass murder of six million Jews). 2. which was held in Berlin on January 20. one who speaks not so much the brutal truth. Poland. that while I remember the tone of my conversation with the student. as one who will make the weaker case the stronger. The records of this meeting were found intact by the Allies at the end of the war and served as evidence during the Nuremberg Trials. 3. A confession: I’ve been telling this story for so long now. 1942. in which he openly referred to the ongoing extermination of the Jews. 4. www.stanford. on October 4. of course. Edmund Burke. the steps that led to the mass murder were written down at the Wannsee Conference. meaning to act as a midwife. Glaucon and Adeimantus are elder brothers of Plato and are eventually convinced by him. 6. he is rendered as one who believes in a particularly harsh version of “might makes right. Needless to say. or question and answer. The process of drawing out implicit but unformulated knowledge by the method of dialectic. Stanlis .” quoted in Edmund Burke and the Natural Law. I don’t remember whether the avalanche image was from the student or from something I had read that ﬁt his point perfectly. This is a little too simple. Maieutic is from the Greek. however. by Peter J.
Bradley Lewis’s introduction to Stanlis (2003) is useful in setting a wider context.150 N ot e s (2003. 5. 2. 8. Thomas’s use of ﬁnal cause as a proof of God’s existence (ST Ia. Burke. Dennehy is referring only indirectly to Thomas. 3) is a quite different (though related) use of the concept. 45–47) on this point. 4. I draw from Josef Pieper’s Guide to Thomas Aquinas (1991. 9.” 1783.edu/smcohen/ 320/4causes. he certainly did not favor the American Revolution. Burke.htm. Eternal Law is not revealed by church or scripture. Chapter 2 1. K. . in Stanlis (2003.washington. “Speech on Fox’s East India Bill. at faculty. Especially because we do not know where fact stops and myth begins. Cohen. with the exception of the girdle of ﬁre. which only makes Dennehy’s comment more puzzling. 7. This version of the story is drawn from G. 3. 7. M. Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method (1993) did much to disabuse the scientiﬁcally naive of that notion. a term with a much wider range of meaning than our term “cause. I have found Stanlis helpful on Burke as a natural law theorist. but it was a view that did not need much disabusing among philosophers of science in the ﬁrst place. the temptation to psychoanalyze should be resisted. 8. 43–45). This is admittedly an old-fashioned view. Eternal Law is not the same as Divine Law. as is the Divine Law. different versions abound. 49). and while not necessarily untrue. Thomas’s dream is the most mythic element. 2. Chesterton (1956. Ibid. in Burke (1990).” The English term “make” has been suggested as a term with a similarly wide range of meaning. Lecture by S. which comes from other sources. 6. V. The correspondence of mind and reality. in which a law of nature exists in the world much as physical phenomena do. 9. The Greek term used by Aristotle for cause is aition (Metaphysics 1013a). Burke argued that American colonists be treated with all the rights of Englishmen. 44). and directly to Jacques Maritain.
St. One can at least imagine a world in which parts add up to more than their sum. and way of thinking. for a discussion of pity at Athens. . a common ﬁction in political theory that assumes that society begins when individuals come together to form a community or regime. I reply that it is not difﬁcult to imagine a cartoon with parts overwhelming the whole that is supposed to contain them. I conclude that the world must be a certain way to support our tautologies. Since the world is not that cartoon.N ot e s 151 Eternal Law stands behind Divine Law. My interpretation of Thomas on connaturality draws on Taki Suto’s “Virtue and Knowledge: Connatural Knowledge According to Thomas Aquinas. individuals are always already in a community.” These examples are from Suto. 10. and the First Principles of Natural Law” (2001). all our attempts to establish something about them . B. The most well-known representative of the “modern” view is Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Alasdair MacIntyre suggests in After Virtue (1981) that the heroic ethic is one of several plausible alternatives to that laid down by traditional natural law. Let us. as Thomas understands. On the contrary. See Alford. This section on Aquinas’s reasoning draws on Gregory Doolan’s “Maritain. The “original position” refers to John Rawls’s Theory of Justice (1999a). 64) 15. If the reader replies that “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts” is a tautology. 16. then the world must be a certain way for the axiom to be true. . 105–109. 11. it is what Divine Law would interpret for us. laid out by MacIntyre in Dependent Rational Animals (1999). 14. but I use it here to signify almost any state of nature. (2004. Thomas Aquinas. (Kant 1996. who stated. xviii) 12. not always and automatically correctly. On that presupposition. 21. More on this claim in chapter 4 on evolutionary natural law. Reﬂecting a strikingly new ethic. try to ﬁnd out by experiment whether we shall not make better progress in the problems of metaphysics if we assume that objects must conform to our cognition. . have come to nothing. therefore. Psychology and the Natural Law of Reparation (2006). 13. if so. [T]hus far it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to objects. 17. however.
“And now. 6. Eros is not just the sex drive. John Dunaway’s (2002. the Frankfurt School. Maritain was to question . Richard Crane’s “Maritain’s True Humanism” (2005) is helpful on Maritain’s view of history.nd. at least by academic standards. It must present the struggle between Eros and Death. Because we never know what the other wants and needs. I think.htm. Hawthorne’s prose poetry is from his “The Old Manse. 122–123).” 3. I take it. It seems unlikely that either Raïssa or Jacques ever seriously considered suicide.edu/jmc/etext/nb07. the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. and I draw on his book. http://maritain. See Alford. passim) is helpful on Maritain’s personalism. “The Greatest American” <http:// en. 2. and to all the others too. between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction. While Three Reformers.org/wiki/The_Greatest_American>. 151–157). now evidently no longer online (or at least I can no longer ﬁnd it).” 5. as it works itself out in the human species” (Freud 1930. we must give him or her everything. this is Raïssa’s account. Amato (1975. For details see Wikipedia. must be considered antidemocratic.wikipedia. This. Ibid. It is between these two great forces that civilization struggles. Maritain is remarkably self-revealing in his notebooks. I was helped by a website on Jacques and Raïssa Maritain. In any case. but the drive of life in all its forms. 9. posted by James Arraj. In Freud’s late work. Since Maritain’s Notebooks (1984) is out of print. 8. the death drive.152 N ot e s 18. not Jacques’s. originally published in 1925. such as Civilization and its Discontents (1930). and Psychoanalysis (2002). is Levinas’s message. 125–147. 7. Chapter 3 1. 4. Levinas. Against it Freud sets the Todestrieb. the reader will have an easier time ﬁnding this material online at the Jacques Maritain Center at the University of Notre Dame. Helpful to me was James Schall’s discussion of Maritain on love and friendship in his Jacques Maritain: The Philosopher in Society (1998. 316) translation of Maritain’s “Le Cantique des cantiques: une libre version pour l’usage privé.
12. . Which does not. 20. Panama. in order to belong to the group of pear thieves. Lt. Like Augustine. but eliminating a people. make it impossible that these possibilities exist. Morocco. 16. so that we can do what we want with a good conscience. This list is not exhaustive. 19. Maritain followed a long and crooked path to his acceptance of pluralist democracy. 13. The similarity to Augustine’s concept of evil as the absolutization of my will is striking. In any case. Kant excludes in advance the possibility that someone would want to destroy the good because it is good. El Salvador. Maritain (1951. some possibilities are just too horrible to consider.viii. 14. 18. South Africa. 15. South Korea. transport. 30–32). and East Timor. For Kant. . and rapture are some of the standard translations of this German term. Calley. Ghana. Chile. 17. Courses in Western civilization generally teach the JudeoChristian tradition as central to the history of the West. I’m not sure he even convinced himself (Confessions II. Ecstasy. The term is from the title of a book by David Rousset. his position on democracy within the year. Evidently. received three and a half years’ house arrest. Liberia. which transforms morality into the servant of desire. Guatemala.16). Eventually Augustine concluded he destroyed the pears for other reasons. and thus the subject would be a devilish being. but Pope Pius XI’s condemnation of Action Française. unfortunately. Kraynak (1998) is helpful here. Commissions have been established in Argentina. The impetus was not only the horror of the First World War. Peru. for that would assume “a thoroughly evil will .N ot e s 153 10. radical evil is a defect (malum defectus ) not of reason but of will. 66–67) quoting Alinsky quoting Tocqueville. a right-wing group with which Maritain was sympathetic at the time. I am elaborating on a dilemma suggested by Maritain. and the states included depend partly on how one deﬁnes a truth and reconciliation commission. a political prisoner held in several Nazi concentration camps. Grosso modo is Italian for in a rough way. The connotation in the current context is the thrill of destruction and transgression of a sacred boundary. the only one of over a dozen killers at My Lai to be punished. . not just taking a life. Neither of these designations is applicable to man” (Kant 1960. 11. or approximately. Canada.
Hume’s problem has been given the dramatic name of “Hume’s Guillotine. or ought not. it was the social world. attribution is readily found in the higher apes. or an ought not. for what seems altogether inconceivable. at least.1. and establishes the being of a God. A theory of mind seems essential to the moral act of taking the perspective of the other. I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought. of the last consequence. when of a sudden I am surprised to ﬁnd. This change is imperceptible. and at the same time that a reason should be given. 4. which are entirely different from it. however. which I have hitherto met with. For Durkheim. in order to throw chimp X off that track. when the former was 46 and the latter 70. but is. and is not. Hume discusses the problem in book III. experienced as the source of life and . Hobbes met Galileo in 1634.html] In every system of morality.edu. part I.au/h/ hume/david/h92t/B3. chimps have a theory of mind (de Waal 2006 69–75). For as this ought.” by Max Black (1964). then X will follow Y in order to ﬁnd out. whom he believed were the oldest living human group on earth. For example. That’s what it means to say that about some things. In The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. by which Durkheim means the human world rendered sacred and divine. that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning. 2. how this new relation can be a deduction from others. if chimpanzee X doesn’t know where some hidden food is. ebooks. section I of his A Treatise of Human Nature. that instead of the usual copulations of propositions. [Quote changed into modern English using the e-books edition.1. Émile Durkheim (1995) argued that both religion and morality stem from the human tendency to project our needs upon the cosmos. 3. or makes observations concerning human affairs. one whose religious nature revealed “an essential and permanent aspect of humanity” (xxxii). His book was based on his study of Australian Aborigines. I have always remarked. but if he knows that chimp Y does. Long held to be distinctly human. Conversely. chimp Y will look in all sorts of places the food isn’t. is. it is necessary that it should be observed and explained.154 N ot e s Chapter 4 1. expresses some new relation or afﬁrmation.adelaide.
and did not become a comprehensive legal and ethical .edu/entries/originalposition/. http://plato. and in chapter 2. then. and the way in which these novels fostered an imagination for the feeling of others. Eventually. Such a view is compatible with natural law. A trope. which was none too pleased with Leviathan either. In the case of an allegory. to Peter Levine and his work Living without Philosophy (1998). is not just the turning of a single word. Chapter 5 1.” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. the trope is a metaphor sustained over the length of a story. which remains rooted in human relationships.N ot e s 155 5. A trope is a rhetorical ﬁgure of speech. My discussion of narrative as philosophical explanation is indebted here. allegory. Hobbes was allowed to return to England by the parliamentary party. One should take no comfort in semantic distinctions. a way of turning (the literal Greek meaning of the term) a word from its original meaning to a new meaning. However. Leviathan was too abstract and theoretical to provide much comfort to either party. transcendent meaning (even as most of society’s members are unaware of this fact). “Original Position. In the end. Sharia was not developed until the second and third centuries of Islam. 3. It is not impossible to write “little histories” of human rights. 8. metaphor. Fred D’Agostino. 6. that was the true source of religious feeling. Lynn Hunt’s Inventing Human Rights: A History (2007) focuses on the impact of the epistolary novel during parts of eighteenth-century Europe. an imagination that made it plausible to claim that “We hold these truths to be self-evident. the book’s apparent atheism so infuriated some royalists that Hobbes sought protection from the revolutionary government in England.” 2. and many puns are all types of tropes. One is tempted to say that Hobbes wrote Leviathan in defense of the royalists exiled in Paris. such as between killing and murder. 7. synecdoche. where Hobbes was also residing in exile.stanford. but again for reasons having more to do with religion than politics. Irony.
6. system until well into the third century of Islam. “proportionality” (the level of aggression and damage must be proportional to the good achievable). a province of the People’s Republic of China. “Outer Mongolia” has not existed since the early part of the twentieth century. see James R. they are his Property. and “military necessity” (targets and objectives must be military) are all designed to limit civilian causalities. This view is sometimes associated with the so-called Cambridge School. “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.claremont. which is an aspect of natural law.156 N ot e s 4. I have decided not to enter into the question of just war theory. and there are a number. not one anothers Pleasure” (Second Treatise of Government. Sometimes the name “Outer Mongolia” is still used to refer to Mongolia. made to last during his. Of all the issues with which contemporary Straussians disagree with the master. and inﬁnitely wise Maker . or Possessions. 5. Stoner. Liberty. the eight and ninth centuries CE (An-Na’im 1990. 8. 315–334). Health. not even the few just wars fought in the twentieth century have been fought justly. .” knows that Camus’ attitude toward the absurdity of the world does not come down to a few lines from The Myth of Sisyphus. 7. The basic categories of “distinction” (directing the war against enemy combatants). “Was Leo Strauss Wrong About John Locke?” www. in which Meursault says. For Men being all the Workmanship of one Omnipotent. as opposed to so-called Inner Mongolia. What Locke actually says is that “being all equal and independent. By these criteria alone. an autonomous state. Anyone familiar with the last lines of Camus’ The Stranger (1988). It would ask whether every effort had been made to avoid civilian casualties in pursuit of a just cause. . no one ought to harm another in his Life.org/publications/pub_print. none arises more frequently than Strauss’s interpretation of Locke in Natural Right and History (1999. For an interesting account of this disagreement among the Straussians. whose Workmanship they are. 202–251).asp?pubid=260. Just war theory would not prohibit the napalming of babies tout court. 9. . but is not an aspect of natural law that ﬁnds much resonance in recent writing on international human rights. section 6).
73) is quoting the French writer David Rousset about his experiences in German concentration camps. . 34–43). . 6. close to his own. for Freud is concerned not just with the pleasure in destruction.’ the capacity of each individual to achieve rational intentions without let or hindrance. but the sentiment expressed here is. and Coming up for Air.N ot e s 157 10. 2. contains the text of his entire address).” If individuals have agency. they can protect themselves against injustice. 1994.” or classically liberal. . to be guided and governed by the certain rule of law . Burke’s notion of freedom is “old Whig. but the desire of the organism for the cessation of all stimulation. 11. lying. For the noncontroversial claim that about half the world’s population still relies on subsistence agriculture. 5. It’s not true. Havel on receiving the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at Independence Hall on July 4. Michael Ignatieff. Keep the Aspidistra Flying . in Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001. recalling his ﬁrst experience of Asia in 1922. See Alford (1997. Maritain (1951.org/ subsist1student. the death drive is more complex than this. Ignatieff attributes his view to Isaiah Berlin (1998). Chapter 6 1. . I believe. The Road to Wigan Pier . . “There is no[thing] which [we] account . Maritain does not agree with everything Rousset has to say. 3. Ignatieff believes. 57) deﬁnes human rights in terms of agency. July 8. 12. 1994 (New York Times.pdf.” (Hayek . I rely on data collected by NASA. and agency in terms of “what Isaiah Berlin meant by ‘negative liberty. and I do not assume it here (Freud 1920. 4. at whose core is a distrust of arbitrary power. This is one of the most controversial and least accepted assumptions of Freud’s metapsychology. In fact. and stealing but injunctions against evil? (Exodus 20). op-ed page. more dear and precious than this. Sometimes it is argued that the Old Testament has little to say about evil (ra’ ). for what are the Commandments against killing. Orwell’s four examples are (in order) from a newspaper column written in 1940. See http://missiongeography. 62–63). . and not by any uncertain and arbitrary form of government . not in accordance with received general laws.
but rather its function is to reveal the truth of doxa .” See Martha Nussbaum. .nhinet. www. It did not necessarily make the historical Socrates an empathetic man. With Arendt (1958. I assume that the views of Hayek and Burke are virtually identical on this point. 199). Along with Linda C. In Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity. not episteme (knowledge). The Fragility of Goodness (2001. 163–168). . even as he believed episteme exists. This is Socrates’ midwifery.org/raeder. And.” 8. doxa. “For Socrates. Serena Parekh (2008. 7. at least if we are to believe the dialogues of Plato. 78) interprets Arendt’s view of Socrates in this fashion. the dialectic method not only is not opposed to doxa.htm. the argument of Nussbaum’s book. Raeder.158 N ot e s 1960. in which Socrates is portrayed as closer to a “rational stone. . to Aquinas’s misericordia. of course. . I assume that Socrates regarded his own views as opinion. 80–82). One must look to Greek tragedy to ﬁnd empathy.
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sharing with others. 14 Bryce. 63–5. 143–4 Banville. 67 bourgeois individualism. 22. 52–3 aspect seeing. 10–11 biological nature. 71 Bloom. Larry. Saul. 130–1 see also human rights atheism. 24 Biden. Ernst. 9 akrasia (weakness of will). 61 An-Na’im. 129 Bernardin. 43 worldview. 93 Bloch. paying. 39–40 knowledge of reality. Fred Avalanche Man story. 9 Arnhart. 79–80 Alinsky. human. see Saint Thomas Aquinas Arendt. John. 100 aspirational rights. 112 Antigone (Sophocles). 9–10. 121 Alford.Index Note: the letter ‘n’ followed by locators denotes note numbers. 59–60 Bourke. 89–90 bourgeois civilization. 91–2. 68 After Virtue (MacIntyre). 53–4. 69–70 L’amour fou (“mad love”). 74 natural reality of. 7–8 on teaching Korean literature. 29 formal cause concept. Edmund. 89–90 basic rights. Vernon. 74 Burke. 149n5 ethics curriculum experience. 26–7. 117. 101–2. Henri. settling of. 72 The Book of Evidence (Banville). 9–10. Joseph. Isaiah. 144–6 arguments. 140 Albert. Hans. 42 Aquinas. 93–4. 2. Abdullahi Ahmed. 99. 146–7 Aristotle ﬁnal cause concept. 46–7. 104 Artists’ knowledge. 149n5 awareness. 54–8 angelism. Allan. spirit of. absolutism. 116. 137. 16–20. 91 attention. 6–7 body politic. 156n4 affective cognition. 30 attachment. 41–2 metaphysics of. viii see also human rights Bergson. 28. 26 megalopsychos. Hannah. 145 . 69 absurdity. Joseph. 111–12 Bible. see connaturality after-knowledge. 24 Nicomachean Ethics. 39–40 naturalism of. James. 49–50 Berlin. C. 143–6 Avalanche Man story. 69.
111–12 Contingency. 40 community-supporting traits. Frederick. Raymond. see existential burden of choice Christian democracy. 58 Decalogue summary. 77–81. René. René. 136 Dennehy. 39–40 knowledge by inclination. 92. 144 see also Rausch (intoxication of destruction) de Waal. 69. 13 considered reﬂection. 103 dignitarian rights/tradition. 119. 152n6 civil rights movement. 70 love of knowledge and. 78 Discipline and Punish (Foucault). 91–2. 94 empathy/empathizing. 101. 150–1n9 Divine revelation. 104 on religions. 76 cruelty. and Solidarity (Rorty). 78 categorical imperative. 53 creative love. 117 Cassin. 26 Descartes. 68 Durkheim. 73–4 Cicero. 80 The Closing of the American Mind (Bloom). 115 Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (Arnhart). 104. 61–2 destruction. 84 Corning. 94–5 evolutionary morality. Maurice. 46–7 Dunaway. 8 community. 32. 110–11 communitarian ideal. 91–2. meaninglessness and. 38–9 Divine Law. 24 divorce. 90 social contract theory. 87–8 on empathy. 95 . 65. 7 common good. 70. 111–12 choice. 17 emancipation. 137 Copleston. 21–3 civic law. 101 death drive. 101–2 domination. 149n2 Enlightenment. 86 Catholic Church. 87–8 connaturality Aristotelian metaphysics and. Frans community-supporting traits. 100–1 evolutionary natural law. 8 Index Darwin. Émile. 136 discourse/dialectic. 90–1 Cranston. 71 civil society.170 Camus. 65 cultural relativism. 154–5n4 Dworkin. Albert. 94–5. Peter. 40 decisionism. Irony. 146 Endlösung (Final Solution). 117. 107–8 An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Hume). 119–20 dehumanization. 35–9 as moral intuition. 14 locus of. Charles. John. 4 Civilization and its Discontents (Freud). 92. 120 East India Company. 121 deﬁnitional strategy. 53–4 The Consistent Ethic (Bernardin). 72–3 common law natural law. 129. Ronald. 130 Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (Maritain). 147 common residue. 68 emotional contagion.
123 existential burden of choice described. H. 58. 110. 57 fundamental foundations. 15 Hart. 84. 4. view of. 57–9 Evolutionary Ethics: An Idea Whose Time Has Come? (Corning). Hermann. Raul. 51–2 Hilberg. Mahatma. 54–5. 132 Hawthorne. 31 171 First Treatise of Government (Locke). 85. Helen. 64 . 139. 98 morality/moral sense. vii is/ought problem. 144 friendship. 74–6. 119–20 founding fathers. 12 German robbers/warriors. 63. A. 100 First Discourse (Rousseau). 30. Sigmund. 153n12 and Eros. 87. evil. 68. 140–1 as challenge to natural law. 127 long-term error and. 139 avoidance of. 152n6 Friedländer. 102 formal cause concept. 17. Hugo. 96 as rhetorical trope. 139 as defect of will. as social contract. 28–9. 40–1 Glendon. 88–9. 122. 159n6 and evil. 57–9 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Locke). 29 Final Solution. 62 ﬁrst principles derivations from. 117 The Fall. 146. 149n2 Finnis. 30. 26–7. 32.. Barbara. 136 foundational claims. 150–1n9 ethical judgment. 110. 6 good vs. 143–6 existential yield. 113–16 Greek agonal culture. 121 Gandhi. L. 21 The Evolution of International Human Rights (Lauren). 138 evil as absence of good. 85–6. 11–13 Havel. Germain. 17 Freud. 103–4 shared ideals. 100–5 tracking lineage of. 31 see also common good government. 35. Mary Ann. 5 George. Robert. 152n6. 17–18 god/God. 77. John. Saul. 138 confrontation of. 125–7 Eternal Law. 19–20 governments. 44–5 ﬁnal cause concept. 4. 39–40 Foucault. 30 Gutmann. 84. 57. 71 Geneva Convention (1977). 74 freedom. 30. 78 French Revolution. Václav. 41 Grisez. 32–3 seeking/doing. 141. 33 speculative knowledge of. 91 as stunted narrative. 124 Fisher. 153n19 Grotius. 142 paying attention. 111 Hardy. 30.Index Eros and death. 100 German civic law. 111 Glorious Revolution (English). 15 derived from natural law. 99 ethics. 139. Michel. 30 biblical roots. 60. 22–3 Goering. 5. threats posed by. 90–1 evolutionary natural law human behavior and. Amy. 86 grosso modo. Nathaniel.
David humankind. 97–8 knowledge by inclination. 100 just law. 98 Kraynak. 66. viii. 96. Jr. 129–32 as politics and idolatry. George F. Philip. 107–8 natural law’s relevance to. 30 Lauren. 24 judgement by inclination. 11–12. 37 Kant. 50 self-justiﬁcation and. 15 subjective experience of being. 64. Lynn. necessity of. 129–32 universal nature of. 128 Korsgaard. Micheline. 124 is/ought problem. Christine. 149n2 The History of Human Rights (Ishay). 102 Holocaust. Howard.. religious versions.172 Index international human rights governments. 155n7 social contract theory. 115–16 The Iliad. 83 Hunt. 41 inclinationes naturales. 7. 94 human rights as aspirational. 149n2 human attachment. 68 see also moral intuition Inventing Human Rights (Hunt). 107–8. 32 human nature. Immanuel. 119 Ishay. 98 virtues. 95 Hume’s Guillotine. 51–2 Hobbes. 70 knowledge through intuition. 147 moral law. 2–3 negative human rights. 119 Ignatieff. 46. 30–1 human nature. 129–30 see also international human rights human rights declaration. Leszek. 93 Leviathan. 2 as natural law. ethical. 99 justice. 53. Paul. 147 Kitcher. 50 Kolakowski. Heinrich. 76 Kreeft. 96–7 Hume’s Guillotine. party of. 84. Robert. 133 justiﬁcation. 109–10. 119–20 Himmler. philosophical. 113–16 in history. see connaturality judgment. 144 individualism. 124 Hittinger. 87. 123 The Law of Peoples (Bernardin). 156n6 Kainz. 5. 86 Kennan. 4. Arthur Allen. 141 nation-state worship. 14. 98 Jesus Christ. 84. John. 43. 116–17 intuition knowledge through. Martin Luther. 5 just war theory. 133 King. Peter. 130–1 individual rights and. 4 . 59–60 International Criminal Court. 127–9 negative human rights. 83 is/ought problem. 112 Leff. 109–13 respecting otherness. 91 human goods. 132–4 secular vs. 87. Michael human rights language/rhetoric. threats posed by. Thomas fear of death. 74–5. 70.. see Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations) Hume. 73. 112–13.
103 misericordia (pity). John limits/obstacles to natural law. 29 Luther. 39–40 Midgley. 141 freedom and rights. 13–14 see also connaturality. 102 naturalistic fallacy. 33–4 narrative about intuition. 43 on love. 100 narrative and. 60. 23 . 44–7 sharing stories. 41–2 metanarratives. 123 Man and the State (Maritain). and Divorce (Fisher). 70 connatural knowledge. 16. 152n1 meaninglessness. 18 maieutic process. 19–20 state of nature. confrontation with. 97 173 personalism. 84 moral sensibility. 88 moral sense theory. 16 dialectic of. 49–51 Maritain. 146–7 natural law as duty. 61 MacIntyre. 66 murder. Aristotelian. 68. 102 liberty. inclinationes naturales . 13. 59–63 poetic attitude. narrative and. 122 evil. 51–4 state. 41 modes of responsibility. 123–7 social contract theory. 57 liberalism. vii Natural History of Monogamy.Index Letter from Birmingham Jail (King). 63. 46 connaturality. 5 Levi. 49. 149n1 Making Sense of Human Rights (Nickel). 53–4. 1. 69–70 manifesto rights. 109 Leviathan (Hobbes). destruction and. 54–8 creativity and. Martin. intuition The Moral Sense (Wilson). Raïssa. 12 natural law as absolute. Jacques absurdity. 63–5 after-knowledge. 155n7 Levinas. 121 moral intuition as connaturality. 144 natural law and. 147 common residue. 54. Mary. 132 natural rights and natural law. Emmanuel. 110–11 community. 19 self-justiﬁcation and. 69–74 Thomist afﬁliation. ix looking (paying attention). Emmanuel. viii belief in God and. 14. 14. see aspirational rights Maritain. 101 moral universals. 76 as realism. 68 common law natural law. 143–6 love l’amour fou (“mad love”). 41–2 Magna Charta. 9. viii. 144 see also Rausch (intoxication of destruction) megalopsychos. concept of. 86 moral decisionism. Alasdair. 63. 97–100 narrative theory. 12. 17. 85–6 metaphysics. 37. Adultery. man and the. 74–6 knowledge by inclination. 104. Primo. 15 as undeveloped capability. 4. 129 Locke. 88–9 Mounier. 77–81. 54–9.
24 nature. love and pity. 63. 10–13 practical syllogism. civic law. 135–6.” vii. vii narrative and. 116–17. 117 Nuremberg Trials. 148 . see natural necessity negative human rights. 122. 140 human nature in. 6. 141–2 as “written on the heart. Thomas. 144 Rawls. Friedrich.” 95–6. 138 see also evil. 97 prejudices. 80. 43 Niebuhr. viii. 7. 119–21. stories. Reinhold. 129 positivistic natural law. viii. 51–4 Pogge. 105 deﬁnition/proof of. 63. 131–2 faith and. 98–9 as “reason reﬂecting on nature. 108. 135. Thomistic natural law natural law positivism. 143 otherness. 13. 21–2 The Origin of Species (Darwin). George. 111–12. 123 Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle). 93 philosophical justiﬁcation. 132 Greek heritage. 33–4. 89–90 in moral knowledge. 100 pity. 10–13 natural necessity. 59–63. 126 realism and reality key doctrinal elements. respecting. 144–5 Orwell.174 natural law (Continued ) biological nature and. Karl. 4. 100–5 Nickel. 24–5 see also Thomistic realism reason duty. 4. 29 religious signs/symbols and. 132–3 Nielsen. 111 Popper. 31 morality and. 121 good and evil. viii. 34. 136 “party of humankind. 44–7. 19. Michael J. 94 human rights as. 137. 104 Perry. 13 Nazi Germany. 112 Rausch (intoxication of destruction). 1 as duty. 2 cultural/institutional barriers. James. 36–7 praise. 93 vs. Martha. 28. 36–7 narrative and. 12. 2–3 interpretation of. 135 violation of. 25 love and. desire for. 113–16 Political Liberalism (Rawls). 122. 61. 80 poetry/poetic experience. Richard. 132–4 Index “ought” statements.” 13. 41 pluralism. 141. 116. 39. 123 personalism. 72 persuasion. 125–7. 138 Quran. 129–32 negative liberty. see is/ought problem overlapping consensus. Kai. new natural law. 92 The Origins of Totalitarianism (Arendt). 44–5 natural law and. 121 positive liberty. 12 natural reality. 126 pain. 111–12. 129. 125–6 prelinguistic consciousness. John. 83–7.. 53 Nietzsche. 99 Peter. 44. 149n2 Nussbaum. 157n10 new natural law. 39 On the Republic (Cicero). deﬁned. 71 necessity.
Leo. view of. 69 speculative knowledge of ﬁrst principles. 145 responsibility. 35. see human rights Rorty. 13. 147–8 Serbian atrocities. 46. 34. David. 97–100 synderesis. 122 as narrative. 21 pluralistic democratic politics and. 117. 45. 120 Saint Thomas Aquinas classical realism and. 29 theological point of view. 86 Rieff. 34. Adam. 38. 150n1 inﬂuence on natural law. Jean-Paul. 43. Thomistic natural law. 71 Second Treatise of Government (Locke). 154n3 Theory of Moral Sentiments (Smith). Jean-Jacques. 1 Song of Songs (Solomon). 96 Thomistic natural law evil. 19–20 social contract theory. 5. 112 superior law principle. 68 syllogism. 117 telos (ultimate aim/end). 26–7. 23–4. 69 stories sharing/telling of. 146 Socratic method. 142 Satan. 56 Sophocles. 64 Satyagraha (power of truth). man and the. 58. 34. Thomistic realism Sartre. 34 see also realism and reality The Reasonableness of Christianity (Locke). 145 relativism. sharing stories and. 4 security. 9 Sharia. 125. 136–8 Rousseau. 122 representative thinking. 100–5 Strauss. 112. 147–8 Smith. 22 perversion of. 118–19 state sponsorship of. 125 Second World War. Taki. 74 theological point of view. 36–7. modes of. 70–1 Socrates. 71. 38–9 social contract. 2 sovereignty. see practical syllogism sympathies. 118–19. 31 state. 5 see also connaturality. 24 Sunna. 24–5 unjust law. 99–100 175 shared values. 62 sacred. 155–6n3 The Situation of Poetry (Maritain). 123. 25 imprisonment story. 52–3 slavery. 17 Suto. 102 social experience. 38 Talmud. 53. 32 segregation. 139 inclinationes naturales. 97–100 stunted narratives. 127 Reﬂections on the Revolution in France (Burke). Richard. human life as. 121–2. 24–5 theory of mind.Index nature and. 136–7 rights. 33. 38 Summa against the Gentiles (Aquinas). 73 religious stories. 6–8 religion founding fathers and. 74 humanity’s place in universe. 136–7 sexual harassment. 96 sociability/social consciousness. 37. 70 . 69–74 state sovereignty.
129–30 universal agreement. 135–6. 138 unjust law. 67. 41 as obsolete metaphysics. 6 truth and reconciliation commissions. 138 . 29 see also connaturality. 122 purpose of. 155n8 truth artists and. Max. 6–7. 13 natural law as. 8. 71–2 virtues. Rousseau (Maritain). Descartes. 114 social rights. 32 synderesis. list of. 76–8 universalism. 140 Wilson. necessity of. 28–9 love and. 136 totalitarianism. James Q. 34. 144 Tinder. 18–19. 88–9 l’univers concentrationnaire. 99 “written on the heart” meaning of. 61. 127 natural rights. 71 as relative. 39–40 participation in Eternal Law. 88 Wittgenstein. 117–18 Tocqueville. 53. Henry. 115 rights guaranteed by. 35 Index power of. 33 of natural law. 71. 96–7 Wannsee Conference. 123 overlapping consensus. vii. Ludwig. viii. 66 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations) articles of. 25–6 formal cause and. Glenn. see shared values Veatch. see Second World War Weber. 38 see also connaturality Thomistic realism abstract universal/principles. 58 torture. 30 practical/speculative intellect comparison. 31 preservation of life.. 5 values. realism and reality Three Reformers: Luther. weakness of. 144–5 trope. 52 as common residue. 63 will. 86 violence. 69–70 Todestrieb (death drive). 86 universal values. 111 conceptual.176 Thomistic natural law (Continued ) misericordia. 27 Aristotelian abstraction and. 33. 149n2 war. Alexis de. 3–4.
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