Chapter

Right Reason in Natural Law Moral Theory

Anthony J. Lisska

in Reason, Religion, and Natural Law

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199767175
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979592 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199767175.003.0006
Right Reason in Natural Law Moral Theory

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Recent scholarship argues that William of Ockham was not the radical voluntarist that historians of philosophy sometimes claimed. This “revisionist” account depends upon a reading of “recta ratio”. Brian Tierney posits Ockham as a “rationalist” while Janet Coleman suggests that Ockham's right action is “objectively rational”. This chapter articulates Aquinas's use of recta ratio, indicates differences with Ockham, and suggests that Ockham is at most a “good reasons philosopher.” Aquinas defines human nature as a natural kind determined by dispositional properties with the final cause rooted in the formal cause. Ockham rejects a cluster of concepts Aquinas uses in spelling out his theory of natural law—natural kind, substantial form, intellect superior to will, final cause—all of which are necessary conditions for Aquinas's Aristotelian-based meta-ethics, which is a form of ethical naturalism. Ockham's use of recta ratio is less robust; if Ockham is a rationalist, it is at best a quite limited version of medieval rationalism.

Keywords: recta ratio; natural kind; ethical naturalism; voluntarism; meta-ethics; formal cause; final cause

Chapter.  9153 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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