GOV 335M / PHL 342:
NATURAL LAW THEORY-W
Professor J. Budziszewski
Unique numbers: Gov unique number 37870, Phl unique number 41740
Class meets: MW 4:30-6:00pm in Mezes 1.210
Prof's office hours: MW 2:30-4:00pm in Mezes 3.106
Prof’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof’s office phone: 232-7229; phone does not record messages; email strongly preferred
Course website: Canvas
Prof’s website: The Underground Thomist, http://www.undergroundthomist.org
Course policies: See the FAQ at the “Other Things My Students May Need” section of the Teaching page at my personal website.
PREREQUISITES, FLAGS, AND FIELD
The course can be taken as either GOV 335M or PHL 342. It carries a writing flag and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing. If taken as a government course, enrollment requires six semester hours of lower-division government. The subfield is Political Theory / Political Philosophy.
“Natural law” refers to moral law – in particular, the fundamental moral principles that are built into the design of human nature and lie at the roots of conscience. Natural law thinking is the spine of the Western tradition of jurisprudence. Historically, it has provided the basis for talking about all of the 'hot button' issues in past and present culture wars; if you wanted to talk about war, slavery, political liberty, or relations between men and women, you talked about natural law. The distinctive mark of natural law thinking is that it begins from what the mind can know about these things by reasoning alone, rather than by the authority of revelation. This in no ways denies revelation, for although the earliest natural law thinkers were pagans, the most influential natural law thinkers have been Christians who held that reason and revelation work together.
The founders of the American republic believed in the natural law -- in universal and "self-evident" principles of justice and morality which the Declaration of Independence called "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God." For generations afterward, most Americans took the reality of natural law for granted. The Declaration of Independence had appealed to it to justify independence; Abraham Lincoln appealed to it to criticize slavery; Martin Luther King appealed to it to criticize racial discrimination. 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 modest renaissance.
Is there really a natural law? What difference does it make to society and politics if there is? 2
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. Probably, most of your liberal arts education has implicitly rejected the whole idea, but in this course, for a change, you have an opportunity to hear the other side.
Unit 1: The Classical Synthesis
Unit 2: The American Reception of Natural Law Tradition
Unit 3: Contemporary Writing by Natural Law Theorists
Unit 4: Natural Law in Broader Perspective
For Unit 1, a required analytical outline (20%). For Units 2, 3, and 4, take-home essays (20% apiece). Short-answer quizzes (20%). Extra credit for analytical outlines for Units 2, 3, and 4 (up to 8 points per unit, added to exam grades). Analytical outlines may also be used during quizzes. I do use plusses and minuses. Attendance and participation significantly affect the final course grade.
Even if you prefer to use the reserves room or read online, you must bring copies of the readings to class, even if only photocopies or printouts.
J. Budziszewski, Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law. On reserve at Perry-Castaneda Library. Can be purchased online if you want to have a personal copy.
J. Budziszewski, Companion to the Commentary. Free online resource available at http://undergroundthomist.org/book/commentary-on-thomas-aquinass-treatise-on-law.
J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide. On reserve at the Perry-Castaneda Library. Can be purchased online if you want to have a personal copy.
Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Law. Available online at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2.htm (scroll down to LAW, and read Questions 90-97, entire, and 105, Article 1 only).
Readings packet. Available for purchase at the UT Copy Center, McCombs 3.136, phone: 471-8281. McCombs is the Business School building, right behind Mezes Hall. 3
Additional online readings listed on the Contents page of the readings packet.
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. On reserve at the Perry-Castaneda Library. Also online at https://archive.org/details/TheAbolitionOfMan_229 .