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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Fall 2003

GOV 382M • Natural Law Tradition

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35980 T
12:30 PM-3:30 PM
BUR 232

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. This is a research seminar on natural law theory, which is presently experiencing a renaissance. Without a moral foundation, we cannot distinguish a government from a criminal gang. Natural law might be viewed as "moral realism plus," insofar as ist holds that the foundational principles of ethics are " the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge"-- that is to say, not only right for everyone but at some level known to everyone (though possibly obscured or repressed). Is there really a natural law? What difference does it make if there is? In what sense is it "natural"? In what sense "law"? What are its implications for government and jurisprudence? Can it do the cultural work which some of its proponents hope it can? This seminar will consider the concept of natural law; it philosophical, biblical, rabbinical, and jurisprudential sources; the classical medieval synthesis; the unraveling of this synthesis during Reformation and Enlightenments; recent new approaches to the idea; and objections and refutations. We will begin with an influential popular expression of natural law, then back up to the Middle Ages and examine the locus classicus, the writings of Thomas Aquinas. After that we will briefly consider early modern natural right (which influenced the American framers), then consider various contemporary restatements of natural law. These will include both neo-Thomist and narrative approaches, as well as the "new natural law" theory of Germaine Grisez, John Finnis, Joseph Boyle, and Robert George.

Grading Policy

Analytical outlines of the readings: 50% Research presentation: 50% Vigorous participation in seminar is expected.


Besides ordering copies, I will put copies on PCL reserve. A. Required Packet of articles available at Abel's Copies C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on the Virtues, trans. John A. Oesterle Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law, trans. Dominican Fathers Yves R. Simon, The Tradition of Natural Law, trans. Vukan Kuic Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies Russell Hittinger, The First Grace B. Recommended J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Know: A Guide


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