Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Recommended Texts

(Still under construction)

“El que se halle en un beneficio sin libros, se halla en una soledad sin consuelo, en un monte sin compañía, en un camino sin báculo, en unas tinieblas sin guía.”
“He who seeks profit without books finds himself in solitude without comfort, on a mountaintop without company, on a path without a walking stick, in the darkness without a guide.”

--Juan de Palafox y Mendoza

History of Natural Law

  1.  Michael Bertram Crowe, The Changing Profile of the Natural Law (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977)  This is a difficult text to acquire and to find, but it is an excellent introduction into the history of the natural law.
  2. Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1998)  Translated from the original German by Thomas R. Hanley, O.S.B., Ph. D., this is a succinct introduction to the natural moral law. It is less detailed that Crowe's more extensive treatment.

Treatments of Classic Natural Law
  1.  Alexander Passerin d'Entrèves, Natural Law: An Introduction to Legal Philosophy (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1994)  This is an easy-to-read treatment of classical natural law philosophy, and is well-recommended as an introduction to the subject.
  2.  Josef Fuchs, Natural Law: A Theological Investigation (Dublin: Gill, 1965)  Translated by Helmut Reckter, S.J., from the German Lex Naturae. Zur Theologie des Naturrechts printed in the 1950s, this is a theological approach to the natural law by a German Jesuit.  It is a relatively difficult treatment.  Importantly, Fuchs's later works cannot be trusted and must be accessed with caution. While a member of the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth, 1963-66 (in fact he chaired that Commission's majority report that was rejected by Paul Paul VI), Fuchs underwent an unfortunate "intellectual conversion," which may be characterized as a mild apostasy, but which perhaps more accurately ought to be described in Biblical language as "introivit in illum Satanas," cf. John 13:27.  In any event, that experience altered his understanding of natural law markedly. He was a dissenter to Humanae Vitae; however, all this turpitude is not reflected in this text which was written in the 1950s. 
  3. Russell Hittinger, The First Grace: Rediscovering Natural Law in a Post-Christian Age (ISI 2003)  Russell Hittinger's works are strongly recommended.  This book is an excellent treatment of the natural law.  He is probably the star proponent of the classical or traditional understanding of the natural moral law which is based upon a teleological understanding of nature and a realisti philosophy.  It avoids the Kantian and Humean presuppositions of the "new" natural law theories of John Finnis and Robert P. George, which he has critiqued in his text A Critique of the Natural Law Theory (University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), a work that is also recommended. 
  4. Matthew Levering, Biblical Natural Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).  Matthew Levering's work is an excellent treatment of the classical theory of the natural law with a decidedly Biblical slant.  Levering, an associate professor of Theology at Ave Maria University, discusses the "turn" from a theocentric notion of natural law to an anthropocentric notion of natural law.  It has good treatments on Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, and Kant, but is weak in its critique of Rousseau, Hegel, and Nietzsche.  According to Levering, two fundamental requirements of a Biblical notion of natural law is that nature has an end or purpose (in Greek, τέλος) and that it have an understanding of what he calls ecstasis (from Greek: ἔκστασις) an understanding of mystery, namely, God, and a desire of union with Him).
  5. Yves R. Simon, The Tradition of Natural Law: A Philosopher's Reflections (New York: Fordham University Press, 1991).  Edited from Simon's lectures in a course entitled "The Problem of Natural Law" at the University of Chicago in 1958, by his student Vukan Kuic, and with an introduction from Russell Hittinger, this is a good treatment of the natural law from a neo-Thomist perspective.  It displays the time it was written (late 1950s and early 1960s); however, it is not for all that dated.  It has more of an interdisciplinary and lecture-like feel to it, as it tends to have a little desultory-like, meandering flavor.  This text has been reviewed in postings in Lex Christianorum.
  6. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Harper Collins, 2000).  Written from a conservative Anglican's position, this excellent little book is an classic treatment of the natural law (which Lewis calls the Tao) launched from a critique of a book on education which "debunks" traditional emotions and the ties these have with an objective moral code.  With a decided literary and less of a philosophical treatment, Lewis shows the absolute necessity of a Tao, and criticizes the modern empirical effort at controlling all things through science, including man.  Once science seizes on the Tao it will re-create man to its own liking, which means that the power to re-make man will reside in some group of men.  Since these will be outside the Tao, the result will be a re-fashioning of men according to arbitrary desire.  This will result in "men without chests," and, ultimately, in the abolition of man as a creature who must live within reality, and not make it.  Lewis's text has been the subject of a series of postings in Lex Christianorum.
  7. Jacques Maritain, Natural Law: Reflections on Theory & Practice (South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2001). This is an anthology of Jacques Maritain's work on the natural law edited by William Sweet.  It flows surprisingly well considering that it is drawn from various of Maritain's works.  The treatment of the natural law by one of the leading neo-Thomists of the 20th century, has a modern "rights" flavor given it, something for which Maritain was known.  It may, perhaps, be too optimistic about the modern "rights" project, but some of this may be the natural result of Maritain's dedication to that cause.  This text has been treated in a series of postings by Lex Christianorum. 
  8. Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the Commonwealth and On the Laws (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Edited and translated by James E. G. Zetzel, this is a translation of two of Cicero's great works on the natural law, De republica and De legibus.  Loosely following Plato's Republic and On Laws, these two texts are the product of Cicero's philosophical project to translate the Socractic/Platonic/Aristotelian doctrine of natural law combined with the Stoic doctrine into one fabric and to Latinize it for the Romans.  Written on the tail end of the Roman Republic, this treatment of the natural law shows surprising continuity with the natural law doctrine even today.  Written from a pagan perspective, it shows how the natural law is something that is not confined to Christianity, much less Catholicism.  Unfortunately, Zetzel's notes to the text seem a little weak.  The translation appears largely faithful and close to the original Latin.  Cicero's De republica and De legibus have been the subject of a series of postings in Lex Christianorum.
  9. J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 2003)  This is an excellent, non-technical, yet perceptive and sensitive treatment of the natural law. It is unabashedly Christian in inspiration, but it insists, as all natural law advocates, that the natural law is something that is not a Christian enclave, but is a universally known and, at least in its most fundamental aspects, universally not unknowable. It is "what we can't not know." Two particular emphases make Budziszewski's contributions to the natural law literature particularly valuable. The first is his analysis (both psychological and social) about what happens when we act against the natural law, a study that he encapsulates under his theory of the Five Furies (remorse, atonement, confession, justification, reconciliation), their purpose, and what occurs when they are ignored. The second is his practical discussion of how we might best address Western society's current demise: in other words, the efforts at public relations or argument. J. Budziszewski's merit is that he has rethought the subject and presented it in a novel, unique way, and that presents the same subject in a different light, from a different vantage point. Notions such as "deep conscience," and "para-conscience" are examples of this sort of contribution. Budziszewski also links the natural law reasoning to current events, and does not shun controversy. He goes beyond the labels of conservatism and liberalism, right and left, and suggests a third way, a natural law way of reasoning. Budziszewski's presentation is also unique in that it is tinctured by the author's own path from moral nihilism, to evangelical Christianity, to Catholicism, so the presentation is enriched by his personal pilgrimage. The book has recently been republished in an updated edition by Ignatius Press. These, and his other texts, are highly recommended.

The "New" or Integral Natural Law Theories

  1.  John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980)  This is a modern classic.  Though there are some problems associated with the new natural law formulation, there are also some advantages to it, especially when in dialogue with modern thought.  Much can be learned from its particular vantage point.  The quality of John Finnis's work is without question, and it is largely as a result of his work that the natural law theory still holds significant Academic respect.

Criticisms of the "New" or Integral Natural Law Theories

  1.  Russell Hittinger, A Critique of the Natural Law Theory (University of Notre Dame Press, 1987)  Hittinger is at the forefront in advancing the classical notion of the natural law.  His work is highly recommended.  Particularly outstanding is his book The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian Age which we  recommend.  In this text, Hittinger criticizes the New or Integration theories of the natural law promoted by Finnis, Grisez, O'Boyle, and George.  One should note that, despite the problems in the Finnis, et al. formulation of natural law, they are staunch allies in the cause against ethical relativism and ethical liberalism.  It is believed by Hittinger (as well as Lex Christianorum), that Finnis, et al. concede too much to the Enlightenment project. 
  2. Luis Cortest, The Disfigured Face: Traditional Natural Law and Its Encounter with Modernity (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008)  This book by an Associate Professor of Spanish Literature at Oklahoma University is a short, well-written confrontation of the classical Thomistic natural law theory with its modern counterparts.  It is especially weighted with the Spaniard natural law thinkers, namely, Suarez and the Spanish Dominicans at the School of Salamanca (e.g., Vitoria, Báñez, and Soto), and contains a good discussion of the debate between Sepulveda and Las Casas at Valladolid.  It stresses the important of ontology in the traditional or classic construction of the natural law, the effect of the thought of Locke, Kant, and Hegel on the ontological theory of natural law, and their intrinsic hostility to it, and the revival of Thomistic thought as a result of Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris, as well as the history of natural law thought in the 20th century.  Its virtue is also its vice.  It is short (a mere 101 pages), but for that reason, it tends to be superficial and exclusionary.

Protestantism and Natural Law

  1.  Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006)  If I had to recommend one text on the issue of natural law in Protestant thinking (or at least Reformed Protestant, as distinguished from Lutheran Protestant), this would be it.  Grabill has crafted an even-handed treatment of the Protestant reformer's teachings on the natural law.  He discusses the Barth/Brunner natural law debate.  He addresses the medieval antecedents to the Reformed tradition (with a particularly good treatment of the medieval discussions of potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata, realism and nominalism, and rationalism and voluntarism in the natural law medieval debates which preceded and informed the Protestant leaders.   He handles the teaching of several Protestant writers: Calvin, Vermigli, Althusius, Turretin, and some more contemporary Protestant theologians of the Reformed school (as distinguished from the Lutheran school).  

Islam and Natural Law

  1.  Anver M. Emon, Islamic Natural Law Theories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)  There is very little available about the natural law and Islam.  In most forms of traditional Islam, there is no natural law.  This arises from the emphasis that traditional Islam put on will to the detriment of reason.  Law is the will of Allah.  Period.  However, this view was not always so entrenched.  More than ten centuries ago, the Muʿtazilah tried to emphasize reason over will.  Unfortunately, the efforts to this school centuries ago were overcome by the ascendancy of the Ashʿari, who emphasized will over reason. The latter became the standard in Islamic thought. This book studies Islamic scholars who are Muʿtazilites or have Muʿtazilite leanings. It divides Islamic natural law into "Hard Natural Law" theories and "Soft Natural Law" Theories. The former are closer to traditional notions of Natural Law. Under the "Hard Natural Law" theories, Emon places and discusses al-Jassas, al-Jabbar, and al-Basri. Under the "Soft Natural Law" theorists, Emon studies the works of al-Ghazali, al-Razi and al-Qarafi, al-Tufi, and al-Shatibi.  The book does not discuss natural law in the context of Shia Islam, but concentrates on Sunni Islam. 
  2. A. Ezzati, Islam and Natural Law  (London: ICAS Press, 2002)  The only other reasonably accessible book that discusses Islam and Natural Law other than the work by Professor Emon that I am familiar with is this one.  It focuses on the concept of human primordial nature, or fitrah, to argue that Islam recognizes a natural law.  I find the argument unconvincing.  The emphasis in this work appears to lean toward Shia Islam, as distinguished from the work by Professor Emon which focuses on Sunni scholar.

Criticisms of Natural Law

  1.  Douglas Kries, The Problem of Natural Law (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2008)  I hesitate to put this book under "Criticisms of Natural Law," since it is, in the main, a work that advocates a natural law theory, and an Aristotelian/Thomistic one at that.  However, the work takes aim at the Thomist view that all men are aware of the first principles of the natural law through the faculty of synderesis (conscience).  He suggests that the Thomistic theory can be modified to excise this requirement without damage to it.  Without the requirement of synderisis, the Thomistic theory reverts back, in Kries's view, to the Aristotelian.  It thus makes the natural law theory more palatable and removes from its opponents the argument that if there was a natural law then there ought to be more unanimity with respect to moral fundamentals.  I think Kries concedes too much.  Kries's treatment of those who deny the existence of "nature," that deny that nature can be the source of moral values, and those who deny the traditional, teleological view of nature is well-handled.  Kries is a very clear, easily read writer. 
  2. Steven A. Long, Natura Pura (New Yor: Fordham University Press, 2010)  This book is an excellent treatment of a variety of issues on natural law.  It begins with a splendid analysis of the deprecation of the Thomist synthesis of nature and grace by advocates of la nouvelle théologie, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.  These great Catholic minds, concerned about preserving the role of grace, deprecated nature to such an extent that they did not recognize in it a proportionate, relative end.  It was as if all was absorbed into grace.  This resulted in significant problems in establishing a natural law ethic, but it had more ominous problems with such fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Incarnation.  Long advocates a return of the Thomistic synthesis as a necessary prerequisite to the revival of natural law moral theology.  Nature, he insists, must be seen as containing a theonomic principle, one ordered naturally to God as First Cause, Final End, and Provident Creator.  The notion of pure nature (natura pura) also allows philosophy and reason a purchase for establishing moral philosophy that allows common dialogue with men of all faiths or no faith at all.  However, modern philosophy, particular the analytic method that is so prevalent in British and American academia is simply unable to carry the burden as a result of its overemphasis on logicism and its failure to understand that logic itself is based upon our abstraction from reality which is learned through our senses.  Long shows how the analytic method can corrupt authentic Thomistic philosophy be using the Polish Dominican philosopher I. M. Bochenski as a sort of paradigm.  Long then reviews the work of Jacques Maritain, Jean Porter, and David Schindler, Jr. in their efforts to accommodate natural law theory with the modern theories of human rights and pluralism, and finds them lacking in various respects.