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Nature as Reason

Jean Porter (Eerdmans: January 2005), 436 pages.

This noteworthy book develops a new theory of the natural law that takes its orientation from the account of the natural law developed by Thomas Aquinas, as interpreted and supplemented in the context of scholastic theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Though this history might seem irrelevant to twenty-first-century life, Jean Porter shows that the scholastic approach to the natural law still has much to contribute to the contemporary discussion of Christian ethics. Aquinas and his interlocutors provide a way of thinking about the natural law that is distinctively theological while at the same time remaining open to other intellectual perspectives, including those of science. In the course of her work, Porter examines the scholastics’ assumptions and beliefs about nature, Aquinas’s account of happiness, and the overarching claim that reason can generate moral norms. Ultimately, Porter argues that a Thomistic theory of the natural law is well suited to provide a starting point for developing a more nuanced account of the relationship between specific beliefs and practices. While Aquinas’s approach to the natural law may not provide a system of ethical norms that is both universally compelling and detailed enough to be practical, it does offer something that is arguably more valuable — namely, a way of reflecting theologically on the phenomenon of human morality. ~ Product Description

Table of Contents

  • Ch. 1    Introduction    1
    • 1    The scholastic concept of the natural law    7
    • 2    The modern approach to the natural law    24
    • 3    The later trajectory of the natural law tradition    33
    • 4    The natural law and theological ethics : the proposed project    45
  • Ch. 2    Nature as nature : the roots of natural law    53
    • 1    Speculative realism and the natural law : a preliminary consideration    57
    • 2    Nature and the natural law    68
    • 3    Defending a teleological conception of human nature    82
    • 4    Toward a concept of human nature    103
    • 5    Ethical naturalism, reason, and the natural law    125
  • Ch. 3    Virtue and the happy life    141
    • 1    Natural well-being and the concept of happiness    145
    • 2    Well-being, happiness, and the practice of the virtues    163
    • 3    Ideals of virtue and norms of nature    177
    • 4    Self-love, neighbor love, and the norms of justice    203
    • 5    The happy life, revisited    221
  • Ch. 4    Nature as reason : act and precept in the natural law    231
    • 1    Contemporary and medieval approaches to practical reason    234
    • 2    Practical reason, will, and first principles    248
    • 3    Natural and divine law : the decalogue as moral law    268
    • 4    Moral norms as law and boundary    288
    • 5    Prudence and the limits of moral knowledge    309
  • Ch. 5    Theological ethics and the natural law    325
    • 1    The natural law as a basis for a Christian ethic    327
    • 2    From natural law to human rights    342
    • 3    The paradoxical status of natural rights    358
    • 4    Nature, grace, and the natural law    378