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

Spring 2006

GOV 335M • Natural Law Theory- W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
37745 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM

Course Description

Contains a substantial writing component and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing. Course number may be repeated for credit when the topics vary. The founders of our republic believed in a "higher" law -- in universal and "self-evident" principles of justice and morality that are the foundation of both our duties and our rights. When the Declaration of Independence invoked "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God," it was expressing the local interpretation of a much older philosophical tradition called natural law. For generations, Americans took the reality of this natural law for granted. The Declaration of Independence affirmed it; the Constitution presupposed it; Abraham Lincoln appealed to it to explain why slavery was wrong; Martin Luther King appealed to it to explain why Jim Crow laws were wrong. You would hardly guess any of this from the present day, because belief in natural law has come to be viewed as "politically incorrect." Nevertheless, the tradition of natural law is experiencing a sort of renaissance, and a great deal has been published on the subject. Is there really a natural law? What difference does it make to society and politics if there is? Is it really "natural"? Is it really "law"? To consider these questions, we will read a variety of influential works on natural law from the middle ages to the present. The readings do include critiques of the whole idea of natural law. Probably, though, most of your liberal arts education has implicitly rejected it. I see the matter this way: You're already had the counterpoint, so you ought to have an opportunity to get the point.

Grading Policy

Four 5-6 page analytical exercises, and sixteen short-answer-format quizzes. The analytical exercises are writing assignments. Each student's lowest quiz grade will be dropped, and the average of the remaining 15 quizzes will be curved; a weight of 20% will be given to the curved quiz average and to each of the analytical exercises. Excessive absences hurt grades; good class participation helps grades in borderline cases; and I do report scholastic dishonesty.


REQUIRED: (1) C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. (2) Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law: Summa Theologica, Questions 90-97. (3) Yves R. Simon, The Tradition of Natural Law: A Philosopher's Reflections. (4) Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis. (5) A packet of readings at Abel's Copies. (5) Recommended but not required: J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide.


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