Critique of the New Natural Law Theory
240 pages, 5.50 x 8.50
Paperback | 9780268007751 | January 1988
Hardcover | 9780268007669 | January 1988
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268088224 | September 2020
In this volume Russell Hittinger presents a comprehensive and critical treatment of the attempt to restate and defend a theory of natural law, particularly as proposed by Germain Grisez and John Finnis. A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory begins by examining the positions of various moral philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Alan Donogan, Elizabeth Anscombe, and Stanley Hauerwas, who wish to recover particular facets of premodern ethics. Hittinger then explores the work of Grisez and Finnis, who claim to have recovered natural law in a manner that avoids the standard objections brought against it since the Enlightenment; they thus claim to have recovered natural law theory available once again for moral theology. Hittinger examines this new theory for internal coherence and consistency. In addition, he examines whether it is sufficiently comprehensive to explicate the religious, anthropological, and metaphysical questions that bear upon natural law ethics. He argues that the new natural law theory fails because it does not take into account philosophical anthropology and metaphysics. It cannot show how and why “nature” is normative for human activity. Hittinger concludes that if natural law theory is to be recovered, we must discover how to constructively bring theoretical rationality to bear upon ethics and practical rationality. Until this is done, he asserts, we will not have a defensible theory of natural law.
Russell Hittinger is Warren Professor of Catholic Studies and Research Professor of Law, University of Tulsa.
"The book is written in a clear and forceful style. It is ideal for use in ethics and logic classes as a model of critical reasoning, although its principal audience will no doubt be philosophers and theologians interested in natural law ethics. Hittinger has in my opinion decisively crushed the Grisez-Finnis ‘revolution.’ I hope he will elaborate on another occasion the very suggestive remarks, to be found at the close of the book, about the grounds of natural law.” —International Philosophical Quarterly
“Russell Hittinger has written a valuable critique of the theory of practical reason advanced by Germain Grisez and John Finnis. The author contends that although their system claims to be a natural-law ethics, it is not derived from an ontology of human nature or from larger metaphysical considerations. Rather, it resembles Kant’s ethical categoricalism.”—The American Journal of Jurisprudence
“Dr. Hittinger’s book causes us to remember how genuinely delicate and refined is the balance between reason and faith in St. Thomas’ view of human knowledge and its relationship to reality. . . . Hittinger’s book is well researched and worth reading.” —The Thomist
“. . . a significant addition to contemporary ethics.” —The Journal of Religion
"Few authors possess Hittinger's extraordinary command of contemporary as well as classical moral theory...This book establishes Hittinger as a moral philosopher of first rank." —Jude Doughterty, Catholic University of America