Natural law theory

Mark C. Murphy

in God and Moral Law

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693665
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732010 | DOI:
Natural law theory

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This chapter is a treatment of standard natural law theory (Aquinas, Finnis, Lisska, MacIntyre), assessed in terms of its adequacy as a theistic explanation of moral law. This chapter argues that although natural law theory has flourished within theistic ethics, it is unsatisfactory as a theistic explanation of moral law: most natural law theories in fact have no role at all for theistic facts in their explanation of moral laws, and while there are ways to try to make room for facts about God in their explanations, the role for such facts turns out to be highly mediated. So natural law theory fails as an adequate theistic account of moral law. This chapter also shows that these arguments generalize to other broadly realist theories (utilitarianism, certain forms of Kantianism, virtue ethics) cast in a theistic way, and a fortiori to varieties of constructivism.

Keywords: God; natural law; moral law; theistic explanation; Aquinas; Finnis; Lisska; MacIntyre; moral realism; constructivism

Chapter.  14073 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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