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 21: Natural law, the common good and the state

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.

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