Friday, February 11, 2005

Patriots Champions Again

You have to love this team. No loud mouths or spoiled sports. All class act, all the time. And they win, even when they don't play as well as they could. What a year for Boston fans!!!


Natural Law Lecture Nine

Biblical Views of Nature and Law

In this lecture, Koterski discusses some of the religious roots of natural law and the development within religious thinking of the ideas of law, nature, and the connections between the two.

He starts with a discussion based on the Jewish Bible and the importance placed on B’rith or covenant. The theme of a covenant between God and man is one that recurs through out the Jewish Bible. There is the covenant with Adam, then with Noah, then with Abraham, Moses, and King David. Also, Koterski mentions Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant to come that Christians take to refer to Jesus.

This theme of the covenant is important because it sets the terms for the relationship between God and man, and this relationship is one of laws. God commands man to take certain actions and to avoid others, and this is the law. It defines the relationship of God as the sovereign and man as the subject.

In a section that is rather unconvincing, Koterski attempts to find a relationship between this divine command theory of law and the natural law tradition. In natural law, the law is discovered through reasoning and reflection but the divine command is primarily revelation. Koterski argues that natural law will hit upon similar commands. Also, he argues that one can see a kind of inchoate natural kinds theory in the bible when it lays out the distinctions and classification of the creatures.

Next, the wisdom literature is discussed. The most philosophical part of the bible, Koterski argues that it largely deals with the problem of evil and the relationship between goodness and reward/wickedness and punishment. It seems as though overtime the covenants between God and his people changed regarding this relationship of reward and punishment. Under the original covenant with Adam, wrong actions saw immediate punishment. But after Noah, this connection was weakened, and this literature seeks to understand why it was weakened – to allow for human freedom, develop character, etc. – and to show how to act properly even if the connection between the consequences and one’s action is no longer clear.

The relationship to natural law comes in that some of the explanations appear to make an appeal to nature. The claim is that God uses nature to aid his people in coming to see right and wrong, and to cultivate real goodness and justice.

Lastly, we turn to the New Testament and St. Paul. In his Letter to the Romans, we can begin to see more explicit appeals to nature as well as the influence of Stoic thinking. For instance, Paul claims that those who haven’t received the revelation of God’s laws are still responsible for them because God’s will and laws can be known through reflection on the world and nature. One can see what is natural and unnatural, and therefore come to know what is right and what is wrong.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Natural Law Lecture Eight

The Stoic Idea of Natural Law

This lecture primarily focuses on the great Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero. Cicero, according to Koterski, offers the first thorough going presentation of natural law theory. Before going into Cicero, Koterski briefly covers the Stoic ideas that influenced Cicero.

The Stoics focus on the ideal of self-reliance and of living according to “right reason in accord with nature.” This latter idea articulates an important and foundational principle of natural law theory. Cicero will also place this idea at the center of his thought.

The idea of right reason is that humans can reason rightly or wrongly. Right reason is truthfully discerning the nature of things. We can go astray or be on target, but we should strive for discerning truth and reality.

The Stoics thought that by living in accordance with right reason and discovering their true nature, one can live in harmony and happiness. All humans have reason, and if all are self-reliant and practice right reason, society will be harmonious.

According to Koterski, the Stoics also sought to connect nature and law to God. God becomes more personal for the Stoics than with Aristotle or Plato. God also becomes the law-giver. This is important historically because it paves the way for Christian natural law and its notion of a personal God. It also puts ethics under the rubric of law instead of virtue.

Cicero brings much of Stoic thought to Roman society and philosophy. He articulates further the ideals and principles of natural law. He discusses the notion of right reason and the discovery of our nature. He brings into the equation the notion of a kind of punishment or sanction violating natural law. Cicero expresses the Stoic ideal of one law binding on all people at all times. This incorporates a fundamental principle of equality and kinship among all humans.

Cicero was also concerned about enumerating a vision of politics that was not based on power or might, but on justice and law. He saw the natural law has dictating duties and obligations, and that these should guide our actions, personally and politically. He seems to also get at a notion of positive and natural law in the distinction of Jus and Lex. Jus is the notion of justice and right that exists as a matter of nature. Lex is the idea of legislation that is created by humans.

In his expression of morality, Cicero followed the Stoics in insisting on focusing on that which one can control: his own choices and actions. It is here that one must follow right reason and choose well based on one’s nature. In areas outside of one’s control (luck or natural course of events) one can’t choose and ethics is silent.

One can see in the Stoics and Cicero the groundwork for later Christian thinking on natural law and other issues. Naturally, that is the topic for subsequent lectures.