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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.
"Ministers of the Law is an argument for the importance of the history of Western legal thought for the jurisprudence of political authority. Jean Porter demonstrates that European jurists before the age of legal positivism had placed clear and absolute boundaries on the authority and power of rulers and magistrates. These boundaries were defined by the rights of human beings that transcended the 'rule of law' and constitutions.-Kenneth Pennington Catholic University of America This book is a theological account of a vital element of human flourishing: authority-natural, political, and legal. Porter argues that positive law, national and international, possesses an authority that may trump anti-terrorist expedients and even general humanitarian considerations.-Nigel Biggar University of Oxford The author presents an original account of natural law as a 'basis of legitimization' that can validate a variety of political systems and structures of positive law."-Brian Tierney Cornell University
Though the concept of natural law took center stage during the Middle Ages, the theological aspects of this august intellectual tradition have been largely forgotten by the modern church. In this book ethicist Jean Porter shows the continuing significance of the natural law tradition for Christian ethics. Based on a careful analysis of natural law as it emerged in the medieval period, Porter's work explores several important scholastic theologians and canonists whose writings are not only worthy of study in their own right but also make important contributions to moral reflection today.
Aquinas, says Jean Porter, gets justice right. In this book she shows that Aquinas offers us a cogent and illuminating account of justice as a personal virtue rather than a virtue of social institutions. For Aquinas, justice is more about interpersonal morality than civic or social obligations, and Porter masterfully draws out the contemporary significance of Aquinas's perspective. - back of book.
Rhonheimer applies moral theology to practical questions, such as, what does it mean to violate the natural law, or to be unnatural?
This volume presents twelve original essays by contemporary natural law theorists and their critics. Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest today in a variety of disciplines, including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies. These essays offer readers a sense of the lively contemporary debate among natural law theorists of different schools, as well as between natual law theorists and their critics.
Do human rights apply only to a certain culture group or can they be demanded of all cultures and religions? This discussion about a common world ethos demonstrates how relevant and explosive that question is. In his study of ethical relativism and historical thinking, Eberhard Schockenhoff shows how the universal recognition of fundamental norms that guarantee the minimum conditions for human existence can be substantiated. Dealing critically with the two most important branches of research in present-day moral theology--autonomous morality and teleological ethics--the author presents a new theological-ethical theory of natural law. Integrating the theory of practical reason and Aquinas' understanding of natural inclinations, Schockenhoff compares this synthesis to the insights of present-day anthropology. This method allows him to re-establish a connection to classical natural law ethics. In so doing, he indicates how ethics can fulfill its most important duty: to arrive at the recognition of anthropologically grounded material norms without falling prey to a logical error. According to Schockenhoff, claims of natural law and of human rights formulate an indispensable minimum, while biblical ethics (the decalogue and the Sermon of the Mount) and the high ethos of the world religions point the way to an encompassing realization of the concept of the good life. Renowned moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff is professor at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. He is the author of numerous works and managing editor of Zeitschrift für Medizinische Ethik. Brian McNeil is a parish priest in Munich and a translator of theological literature. PRAISE FOR THE BOOK: "The book is impressive in many respects. It is thorough and precise about the specific problems associated with natural law theory, and the chapters on relativism and historicism exhibit impressive erudition and insight. Few books on natural law grapple so extensively and fairly with objectors as does this one, and its responses are admirable in their breadth and depth."- Mark Graham, Theological Studies "A masterly treatment of many of the most important issues in moral theology."--Brian V. Johnstone, Studia Moralia "This book demonstrates convincingly that natural law has not become obsolete in ethical discussions. . . ."--Peter Fonk, Theologische Revue "In regard to topics that are coined by the Roman-Catholic tradition, the author includes Protestant authors in his considerations with a naturalness that has to be seen as a fortunate sign of ecumenical openness. Schockenhoff manages to revive answers of the tradition that have sometimes been put aside, and to bring them up in the challenges of today."--Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Theologische Literaturzeitung "An exceptional discussion of the concept of natural law as it applies to a modern world of moral relativism. . . . This is a high quality work, providing both a wide overview of the concerns of natural law and offering a respectable solution worth further consideration. Schockenhoff's work is highly recommended."--Matthew Ryan McWhorter, Catholic Books Review OnLine "This book by one of the leading Catholic moral theologians in Germany, teaching at Freiburg University, presents a simple thesis in an elaborate and sophisticated fashion....Schockenhoff's highly learned and impressive account deserves attention and critical engagement." -- Bernd Wannenwetsch, Studies in Christian Ethics

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