Gary Chartier and Jere L. Fox’s chapter casts light on a central idea in contemporary natural law theorizing: the idea that categories of intrinsic human goods are incommensurable, in the sense that they cannot be quantitatively compared, while individual human goods are not only incommensurable but also non-fungible, in the sense that they cannot be substituted for each other without loss or remainder. Chartier and Fox seek to motivate this account by appealing to the phenomenology of practical choice. We experience ourselves as pursuing a range of diverse objectives in life, many of which seem valuable for their own sake. These goods strike us as diverse, heterogeneous, and not readily interchangeable. The notions of incommensurability and non-fungibility therefore make sense of how intrinsic goods figure in our practical reasoning, while undermining the appeal of consequentialism as an account of the same phenomena. The authors then respond to some critics of this picture, arguing that the counterintuitive results these critics identify can be avoided when the view is properly articulated.
Gary Chartier and Jere L. Fox
Gary Chartier and Jere L. Fox’s chapter examines the relationship between natural law and the state. Contemporary natural law theorists, particularly those working in the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition, have tended to view the state as necessary to secure human flourishing. Chartier and Fox seek to undermine this assumption. Natural law theorists, they argue, should deny that the state is necessary or desirable to secure the common good. The authors draw attention to an alternative natural law tradition represented by evolutionary social theorists such as Adam Smith, Lysander Spooner, and Friedrich A. Hayek, arguing that these theorists’ understandings of the basis of social order holds lessons for adherents of the Aristotelian-Thomist outlook. Chartier and Fox begin their chapter by exploring the role of consensual social institutions in securing the common good (understood in a narrow sense as the good of just social order). They then critically assess the influential natural law arguments for state authority offered by Germain Grisez, Joseph Boyle, and John Finnis, before explaining why non-state norms and institutions should be regarded as a viable route to ensuring social stability.