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Western philosophy has long nurtured the hope to resolve moral controversies through reason; thereby to secure moral direction and human meaning without the need for a defining encounter with God or the transcendent. The expectation is for a moral rationality that is universal and able adequately to frame and guide the moral life. Moral and cultural unity was sought though philosophical reflection on human nature and the basic goods of a properly nurtured and virtuous life—that is, through appeal to what has come to be called the natural law.
The natural law addresses permissible moral choice through objective understandings of human nature and human goods. Persons are obligated to act in ways that are compatible with creating and integrating the basic human goods into their lives and the lives of others. Such goods provide the basis for practical reasoning about virtuous choices and immediate reasons for action. The goal is the making of rational choices in the pursuit of a virtuous, flourishing, human life. Natural law theorists have argued extensively against human cloning, abortion, and same-gender marriage.
Yet, whose assumptions regarding human nature should guide our understanding of the basic goods that mark the full flourishing human life? Moreover, why should nature, even human nature, be thought of as a moral boundary beyond which one must not trespass? Persons may wish actively to direct human evolution, utilizing the tools of both imagination and biotechnology. Perhaps nature is simply a challenge to be addressed, overcome, and set aside.
This volume is a critical exploration of natural law theory.
Acknowledgement; Mark J. Cherry / The Normativity of the Natural: Can Philosophers Pull Morality out of the Magic Hat of Human Nature? Section I; Thomistic Foundations:Natural Law Theory, Synderesis and Practical Reason;Christopher Tollefsen / Human Nature and Its Limits; Angela McKay / Synderesis, Law, and Virtue; Patrick Lee / Human Nature and Moral Goodness; Jack Green Musselman / Natural Law for Teaching Ethics: An Essential Tool and not a Seamless Web Section II; Human Goods and HUMAN FLOURISHING:Revitalizing a Fallen Moral Culture; Douglas Henry / Quid Ipse Sis Nosse Desisti; Anthony Giampietro / Preparation for the Cure; William Zanardi / Diagnosing Cultural Progress and Decline; Section III; The Malleability of Human Nature; Roberta Berry / The Natural Law and Germ-line Genetic Engineering; Stephen Erickson / Reflections on Secular Foundationalism and Our Human Future; Peter Wake / Nature as Second Nature: Plasticity and Habit; Section IV; The Challenge of Deriving an Ought from an Is; Ian Nyberg / Can Moral Norms Be Derived from Nature? The Incompatibility of Natural Scientific Investigation and Moral Norm Generation; Stephen Hanson / Moral Acquaintances and Natural Facts in the Darwinian Age; Notes on Contributors; Index.