The Problem of Natural Law (Applications of Political Theory)

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9780739120361: The Problem of Natural Law (Applications of Political Theory)
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The Problem of Natural Law takes up the problem of how natural law theory might be made a serious contender in modern moral, political, and legal debate. Author Douglas Kries takes as his starting point the question of how human beings are said to know the natural law, which is a question that has traditionally been answered by appealing to the notion of "conscience." Since Thomas Aquinas articulated the classic formulation of natural law theory, the book begins with an analysis of Thomas's notion of conscience. It then examines both the philosophical and theological objections that have been raised against the Thomistic notion of conscience and argues that this long-standing teaching could and should be bracketed by contemporary natural law theory. On the basis of this reformulation of natural law, Kries then proceeds to show how reviving natural law theory might be possible in the contemporary context, though it will need to be preceded by a reformulation of the natural law theory itself, especially with respect to the doctrine of conscience. If this is accomplished, Thomistic natural law will be better situated to respond to its three most important contemporary critics: the existentialism of Sartre, the deontologism of Kant, and the political hedonism of Hobbes.

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About the Author:

Douglas Kries is associate professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University.

Review:

Kries gives us an intelligent analysis of Aquinas's theory of conscience, with some very revealing historical detective work at its foundation. What is more, Kries's book contains one of the best discussions I have seen of the fundamental problem of any natural law doctrine: whether there really is something like a natural conscience through which human beings learn their duties. Particularly valuable is Kries's discussion of the leading contemporary challenges to natural law. (Thomas G. West)

Kries's treatment of traditional natural law arguments is sophisticated and refreshing. . . .Recommended. (. CHOICE, May 2008)

Kries gives a useful exposition of the historical evolution of synderesis. The Problem of Natural Law takes us close to the heart of the problem. Anyone interested in something more than slogans about natural law will want to read the book. (Russell Hittinger, University of Tulsa First Things)

Since John Finnis's pioneering work, books and essays on natural law have continued to come forth in the past thirty years. Douglas Kries's new book serves a special purpose in this regard. It puts into order the main schools of thought that would reject or interpret natural law in a non-Thomistic framework. Kries sees the point of the various objections and their historic sources. He is a clear writer and puts the whole issue of natural law in a light that fairly considers the objections and sees how a natural law thinker would deal with them. This is a very worthy and valuable contribution. (James V. Schall, S. J., professor emeritus, Georgetown University)

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