By Nature Equal: The Anatomy of a Western Insight [NOOK Book]

Overview

What do we mean when we refer to people as being equal by nature? In the first book devoted to human equality as a fact rather than as a social goal or a legal claim, John Coons and Patrick Brennan argue that even if people possess unequal talents or are born into unequal circumstances, all may still be equal if it is true that human nature provides them the same access to moral self-perfection. Plausibly, in the authors' view, such access stems from the power of individuals to achieve goodness simply by doing ...

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By Nature Equal: The Anatomy of a Western Insight

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Overview

What do we mean when we refer to people as being equal by nature? In the first book devoted to human equality as a fact rather than as a social goal or a legal claim, John Coons and Patrick Brennan argue that even if people possess unequal talents or are born into unequal circumstances, all may still be equal if it is true that human nature provides them the same access to moral self-perfection. Plausibly, in the authors' view, such access stems from the power of individuals to achieve goodness simply by doing the best they can to discover and perform correct actions. If people enjoy the same degree of natural capacity to try, all of us are offered the same opportunities for moral self-fulfillment. To believe this is to believe in equality. This truly interdisciplinary work not only proposes the authors' own rationale but also provides an effective deconstruction of several other contemporary theories of equality, while it engages historical, philosophical, and Christian accounts as well. Furthermore, by divorcing the "best" from the "brightest," it shows how descriptive equality acquires practical significance. Among other accomplishments, By Nature Equal offers communitarians a core principle that has until now eluded them, rescues human dignity from the hierarchy of intellect, identifies racism in a new way, and shows how justice can be freshly grounded in the conviction that every rational person has the same capacity for moral excellence.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The basic premise of this book, by two law professors, is that humans, in spite of their differences, share one essential characteristic: "the capacity of every rational person to advance in moral self-perfection." How this is achieved, the authors argue, is more dependent on the intention to do good for one's fellow human beings than on the actual results of any efforts to do so. By this analysis, a person can become good without necessarily doing good; it is the good intention that is ultimately determinative. To flesh this out, the authors make a grand tour of Western philosophy, theology, and ethics. They provide brilliant analyses of pertinent thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Jefferson, Francisco Suarez, Bernard Lonergan, and John Rawls. The writing is fluid and engaging, and extensive endnotes provide further elucidation for specialists. The most serious criticism of this edifying study is that the authors seem to assume that people are inclined to strive for moral self-perfection; some readers may not agree. For academic collections in philosophy, theology, and ethics.--Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Coons (law, emeritus, U. of California-Berkeley) and Brennan (law, Arizona State U.) examine "the belief in human equality<-->the common conviction that equality is a fixed characteristic of human persons... equality not as a social goal or as somebody's legal claim but, rather, as some characteristic believed to link the individual self to others."<-->from the introduction. In exploring the idea of equality, the authors propose their own rationale and provide deconstruction of several other contemporary theories while engaging historical, philosophical, and Christian thinking. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
From the Publisher
"The authors make a grand tour of Western philosophy, theology, and ethics. They provide brilliant analyses of pertinent thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau. . . . The writing is fluid and engaging. . . ."Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400822881
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/29/1999
  • Series: New Forum Books
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Core Textbook
  • Pages: 360
  • File size: 578 KB

Table of Contents

Acknowledgment and ApologyForewordIntroduction: In Search of a Descriptive Human Equality3Pt. IHuman Equality: What does it Mean?171What Has Been Said?222The Host Property393Making the Host Property Uniform66Pt. IICould the Philosophers Believe in Human Equality?914Could the Enlightenment Believe? Individualism, Kant, and Equality1015Nature, Natural Law, and Equality123Pt. IIICould the Christians Believe in Human Equality?1456The Framework for a Christian Obtensionalism1487Repaving the Road to Hell: The Pelagian Issues1648The Repaving Project, Part II: An Equal-Opportunity Creator191Pt. IVGood Persons and the Common Good2159Harmonies of the Moral Spheres21810Harvests of Equality232Notes261Index349
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Recipe

"A profound and highly original contribution to the literature of philosophy, ethics, theology, and law. . . . By Nature Equal is sagely worded, soundly argued, and written in a clear and accessible style. I read it with great enthusiasm."—John Witte, Jr., Emory University

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