June 29, 2011


,The Natural Law (Dr. Jeff Mirus, June 23, 2011 Catholic Culture)

One of the clarifying points in a brilliant new book on natural law from Ignatius Press is that we do not come to know the natural law by being taught it by others. The book is J. Budziszewski’s What We Can’t Not Know; it is a revised and expanded edition in 2011 of a work first published in 2003. The author rightly insists that the natural law is not impressed on us by others, or by this or that interest group. Rather, it is something we recognize instinctively, like the concept of “fairness”. Moreover, it is something which people always refer to even when they are trying to deny it, as when they try to justify their deviation from one part of the natural law by appealing to something else in the natural law that their contemporaries more easily recognize.

Indeed, recognition is the key. While we all respond to the most basic principles of natural law as first principles that do not need to be proved, we don’t always formally recognize that we know these principles, nor can we always elaborate their subsidiary principles accurately. In this sense, good teachers—and especially those who mine the hard-won and enduring insights of previous generations as carried forward by tradition—can draw out of us a fuller recognition of the natural law, even though they are not properly speaking teaching it to us in the form of an argument or even a bald assertion.

J. Budziszewski, a recent convert to Catholicism from an Evangelical background, a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and a frequent contributor to First Things, has a particularly keen ability to help us recognize the natural law, and to elucidate both how we know it and how we may gain additional moral knowledge by reasoning from its deepest principles. In casting about for the simplest and most familiar summary of the natural law, he finds that the Ten Commandments given by God to the Jews cover all the basic points, though they have also been summarized in other traditions.

...even God thought we needed them written down for us.

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Posted by at June 29, 2011 6:12 AM

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