Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory
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Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory

Jonathan Crowe and Constance Y. Lee

This thought-provoking Research Handbook provides a snapshot of current research on natural law theory in ethics, politics and law, showcasing the breadth and diversity of contemporary natural law thought. The Research Handbook on Natural Law Theory examines topics such as foundational figures in Western natural law theory, natural law ideas in a variety of religious and cultural traditions, normative foundations of natural law, as well as issues of law and governance. Featuring contributions by leading international scholars, this Research Handbook offers a valuable resource for scholars in law, philosophy, religious studies and related fields.
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Chapter 15: Incommensurable goods

Gary Chartier and Jere L. Fox


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.

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