From Human Dignity to Natural Law: An Introduction

by Richard Berquist
foreword Jensen
Catholic University of America Press, 2019
Paper: 978-0-8132-3242-3, eISBN: 978-0-8132-3243-0

From Human Dignity to Natural Law shows how the whole of the natural law, as understood in the Aristotelian Thomistic tradition, is contained implicitly in human dignity. Human dignity means existing for one’s own good (the common good as well as one’s individual good), and not as a mere means to an alien good. But what is the true human good? This question is answered with a careful analysis of Aristotle’s definition of happiness. The natural law can then be understood as the precepts that guide us in achieving happiness.

To show that human dignity is a reality in the nature of things and not a mere human invention, it is necessary to show that human beings exist by nature for the achievement of the properly human good in which happiness is found. This implies finality in nature. Since contemporary natural science does not recognize final causality, the book explains why living things, as least, must exist for a purpose and why the scientific method, as currently understood, is not able to deal with this question. These reflections will also enable us to respond to a common criticism of natural law theory: that it attempts to derive statements of what ought to be from statements about what is.
After defining the natural law and relating it to human or positive law, Richard Berquist considers Aquinas’s formulation of the first principle of the natural law. It then discusses the love commandments to love God above all things and to love one’s neighbor as oneself as the first precepts of the natural law. Subsequent chapters are devoted to clarifying and defending natural law precepts concerned with the life issues, with sexual morality and marriage, and with fundamental natural rights. From Human Dignity to Natural Law concludes with a discussion of alternatives to the natural law.
Foreword by Steven J. Jensen
A Note on Abbreviations and Citations
A Case of Murder
Ethical Relativism
Egoism vs. Altruism
The Common Good
Human Dignity
The Cause of Human Dignity
2. Finality in Nature
Finality in Aristotle and Contemporary Science
The Limitations of the Scientific Method
Are Living Things Machines?
Nature Acts for an End
Two Objections
3. Happiness
Opinions about Happiness
The Definition of Happiness
Happiness and Other Human Goods
The Possibility of Happiness in the Present Life
What Is Virtue?
Moral and Intellectual Virtues
The Virtues of Self-Control
The Social Virtues
Beyond the Nicomachean Ethics
Virtue Ethics and Natural Law Ethics
5. The Natural Law
The Definition of Law
The Definition of Law Applied to the Natural Law
The Primacy of the Common Good
The Dependence of Human Law on the Natural Law
Deriving Human Laws from the Natural Law
The Content of the Natural Law
Natural Goods
The Love Commandments
A Note on the Is/Ought Fallacy
6. The Life Issues: Part 1
Killing the Innocent
Bodily Integrity
Indirect Killing
Killing in Self-Defense
Capital Punishment
Treatment of Enemy Combatants
Applying Just War Theory Today
Killing Animals
8. Sex, Marriage, and Family: Part 1
The Sexual Act as an Act of Love
The Sexual Act as Procreative
Masturbation, Sodomy, and Homosexual Acts
Natural Family Planning
Artificial Methods of Procreation
9. Sex, Marriage, and Family: Part 2
The Nature of Marriage
Adultery and Sex outside Marriage
Homosexual Marriage
10. The Contemplative Life and Life in Society
Truth and Wisdom
The Contemplative Life
Searching for Wisdom
The Political Community and Public Authority
Locke’s Theory of the Social Contract
Natural Law and Democracy
The Universal Common Good
11. Natural Rights
Natural Rights and Natural Duties
A Modern Natural Rights Theory
Responding to Natural Rights
The Welfare State
The Right to Life
The Right to Freedom
The Right to Property
The Jus Gentium
The Rights of the Family
The Rights of the People: Virtue, Culture, and Religion
Religion and Art
Human Progress
12. Natural Law and the Alternatives
What Prevents Us from Accepting the Natural Law?
Are There Any Valid Human Laws?
What Are the Alternatives to the Natural Law?
Social Contract Theory
W. D. Ross
Two Concepts of Human Dignity
A Concluding Thought

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