Natural Law

Robert P. George

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Natural Law

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Theories of natural law propose to identify fundamental aspects of human well-being and fulfillment (“basic human goods”), and norms of conduct entailed by their integral directiveness or prescriptivity (“moral norms”). Propositions picking out basic aspects of human flourishing are directive (prescriptive) in our thinking about what to do or refrain from doing (our practical reason)—they are, or provide more than, merely instrumental reasons for action and restraint. When these foundational principles of practical reflection are taken together they entail norms that may exclude some options and require others in situations of morally significant choosing. According to St Thomas Aquinas, practical reasoning is reasoning about what is worth doing and what ought to be done. This article discusses natural law and practical reasoning, morality, virtue, political morality and positive law, natural law and legal interpretation, legal injustice, and the link between natural law and religion.

Keywords: St Thomas Aquinas; practical reasoning; natural law; morality; virtue; positive law; legal interpretation; legal injustice; religion; moral norms

Article.  7106 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law ; Political Theory

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