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Morality and Law in a Global Society: A Place for Natural Law Theory?

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There are basically four stages of a person’s thinking. The first is a person’s quest for meaning. It is a time for questions. Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Yet in America, living an examined life is rare. The challenge is to live an examined life in a culture of unexamined lives. The second stage is a time for answers. We cannot avoid the realism of evil, yet today, few have seriously examined absolute evil. The third stage is a time for confirmation and assurances to our answers of evil and pain. The fourth stage is the time for commitment and beginning of the journey. For the simple person who has all the answers, there is no further journey. At the other extreme is the intellectual who never has all the answers. There is always a question for another day and there is never any really settled resolution on what he or she believes or why. There are two basic philosophical systems that have influenced our thinking about morals and about law. The first is naturalism, which began in the 6th century B.C., in the Greek Ionian culture with a certain set of cosmologies, most of which were naturalistic in nature where reality was expressed in terms of water, fire, earth, or air. Naturalism has experienced great growth since in the Enlightenment. However, the notion at the heart of morality and law is idealism. Indeed, for much of the history of legal thought, the connection between morality and law was found in idealism. It is within the philosophy of idealism that we find the history of natural law theory. This matters because how one thinks about the nature and purpose of law, what forms the foundation of law and how it is made, either legislatively or through the courts is one of the most elusive and persistent problems in the entire range of human thought. This article explores some of that history.

Hon. Rollin A. Van Broekhoven, B.S., Wheaton College Wheaton, IL.; J.D., Baylor University School of Law; LL.M., University of Virginia and George Washington University Schools of Law, Charlottesville, Va. and Washington, D.C.; DPhil, DLitt, Oxford Graduate School, Jurisprudence and Socio-Legal Policy, Dayton, TN and Oxford, UK; DPS (Hon) Gordon College; LL.D., Wenham, MA; (Hon) Collegium Augustinianum, Rome, Italy and Mohnton, PA. Retired federal judge, Washington, D.C. and professor of legal philosophy and legal history, author and frequent lecturer on federal litigation, bioethics, and charity law in Europe, North America, and Asia. Admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals (Fed. Cir.), the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Texas. Contact:

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