Natural Law and the Legislation of Virtue: Historicity, Positivity, and Circularity

Vera Lex 2:51-70 (2001)
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As Alexander D’Entrees observed over forty years ago, the case for natural law “is not an easy one to put clearly and convincingly.” Furthermore, even if one can make the case for natural law in a clear and convincing manner, one should not expect such an argument to be clear and convincing for all time. Instead, the case for natural law must be an ongoing argument, addressing itself perpetually to the needs of the time as these needs shift and change. In short, the case for natural law “must needs appear in a different light according to the angle in time or in place from which it is looked at.” With this precept in mind, I seek to examine Thomas Aquinas’s natural law teaching on the legislation of virtue in light of concerns that are especially acute from the perspective of contemporary liberalism.
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