Psychology and the Natural Law of Reparation

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Are there universal values of right and wrong, good and bad, shared by virtually every human? The tradition of natural law argues that there is. Drawing on the work of psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, whose analyses have touched upon issues related to original sin, trespass, guilt, and salvation through reparation, in this 2006 book C. Fred Alford adds an extra dimension to this argument: we know natural law to be true because we have hated before we have loved and have wished to destroy before we have wanted to create. Natural law is built upon the desire to make reparation for the goodness we have destroyed, or have longed to destroy. Through reparation, we earn salvation from the most hateful part of ourselves, that which would destroy what we know to be good.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fred Alford has written a marvelous little book drawing out out a distinctive way of thinking anew about natural law. With admirable virtuosity and unfailing common sense, he weaves together a diverse group of sources: Melanie Klein's psychoanalysis, Thomist natural law, political theory, interview results, and Greek tragedy. The book manages to maintain a salutary sense of moral and spiritual seriousness, without ever descending into heavy-handed preaching. The reader comes away enlivened by a powerful engagement."
Stephen White, University of Virginia

"Our late-modern age brims over with evidence of evil - evidence too often sidelined. As Lance Morrow remarked, the children of "enlightenment" are often obtuse to the dangers of "endarkenment". How to account for the rampant upsurge of evil everywhere, and how to combat or contain this upsurge? Fred Alford, the renowned scholar of political psychology, here probes these questions with rigor and insight. As in his other writings, Alford uncovers unsuspected linkages or affinities and opens up exciting new vistas. Regarding the notion of "natural law", in particular, these affinities link together Saint Augustine, Jacques Maritain, and Melanie Klein. Viewed from that perspective, natural law means not an abstract doctrine, but the desire and need to heal injuries and to make reparations for the ravages of hatred and destruction."
Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame

"Psychology and the Natural Law of Reparation seeks to invigorate the latent resonance of reparation and natural law contained within our culture and evident to us through our history. And for that reason alone, his arguments are worthy of our consideration." - James M. Hepburn, PsycCritiques

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521184373
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/17/2011
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

C. Fred Alford is Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of a dozen books on moral psychology, including Rethinking Freedom, What Evil Means to Us, and Think No Evil. A recipient of three Fulbright Fellowships, Alford is Executive Director of the Association for Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society and serves on the editorial boards of several professional journals.

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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Antigone and the natural law; 2. Younger people, relativism, and the natural law; 3. Natural law and natural evil; 4. Making reparation moral.

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