The End of Law
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The End of Law

How Law’s Claims Relate to Law’s Aims

David McIlroy

The End of Law applies Augustine’s questions to modern legal philosophy as well as offering a critical theory of natural law that draws on Augustine’s ideas. McIlroy argues that such a critical natural law theory is: realistic but not cynical about law’s relationship to justice and to violence, can diagnose ways in which law becomes deformed and pathological, and indicates that law is a necessary but insufficient instrument for the pursuit of justice. Positioning an examination of Augustine’s reflections on law in the context of his broader thought, McIlroy presents an alternative approach to natural law theory, drawing from critical theory, postmodern thought, and political theologies in conversation with Augustine.
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Chapter 7: Critical natural law

David McIlroy

Abstract

The core commitment of natural law theories is that the basic principles of morals and legislation are objective, accessible to reason and based on human nature. The Objective Standard against which laws are to be measured may be conventional or it may be iconoclastic. Bentham’s Utilitarianism was a natural law theory just as much as Blackstone’s was. Natural law theories can be critical theories, critiquing the injustice of rulers in the name of a higher standard of justice. When a natural law theory is conventional, it reveals that a society’s conceptions of deep justice have become so settled that they have been mistaken for true justice. Human rights theories are a modern form of natural law, asserting that there are universal standards of justice which apply across all cultures. The best explanation for the existence of universal standards of justice is a theistic one.

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