Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A new skepticism about natural law?

David Bentley Hart, "Is, Ought, and Nature’s Laws" (First Things, March 2013), offered a skeptical review of natural law theories.

The piece got a lot of attention, some positive, some negative:In the May issue of First Things, Hart responded to Feser's criticisms in "Nature Loves to Hide" (First Things, May, 2013); and now Feser has responded, in turn, to Hart, in "Sheer Hart Attack: Morality, Rationality, and Theology" (Public Discourse, April 24th, 2013 -- again, it carries an earlier publication date).

These articles are both illuminating about the contemporary state of affairs in the Catholic corner of the public square, and edifying in what they reveal about the often-misunderstood character of natural law. For those who understand the difference between natural law and natural law theories, there is no reason whatsoever to be skeptical about natural law.

One of the best books I can recommend to give the novice a sense of the distinction, and a powerful sense of how compelling natural law argument can be is J. Budziszewski's What We Can't Not Know: A Guide.

[Hat tip to C.B.]




The greatest flaw of natural law thinkers, particularly from a religious perspective is the underlying assumption that human nature is of the state God intended it to be.

If 'natural law' were a sure guide to moral development, history would be written otherwise. And while the corruptions and limitations of human nature continue to manifest themselves in war and conflict, social injustice, environmental degradation, paedophile priests and all forms of sexual perversion, to claim human nature is of God is no longer plausible. Just more chasing after wind!