Natural Law and Jewish Philosophy

David Novak

in Judaic Sources and Western Thought

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199583157
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728952 | DOI:
Natural Law and Jewish Philosophy

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The chapter explicates the ways in which Jewish sources and the rabbinic tradition supply a conception of the relation between rational justification and the theistic ground of moral requirements that illuminates natural law theorizing. The Noahide commandments, important to debates about whether Judaism contains a conception of rational, natural law, are best understood as reflecting God's wisdom, discoverable when humans recognize the necessary divine grounding of all cogent human claims on each other. A natural law interpretation of the Noahide commandments corresponds best with classical Jewish sources. Novak claims that natural law categories of thought are a sound way of articulating the universally valid standards of justice in Jewish moral thought. Natural law provides a conceptual idiom for the rights and duties religious Jews regard as having a divine source and which are many of the same rights and duties secular persons recognize. The particularism of Jewish tradition can be a means of access to universal moral values and principles, rather than distancing Judaism from them. A rethinking of natural law shows that many of its fundamental elements are present in distinctively Judaic thought and sources.

Keywords: Aristotle; creation; intercultural world; justice; nature; normative universality

Chapter.  9118 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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