GOV 335M / PHL 342:
NATURAL LAW THEORY
Professor J. Budziszewski
Unique numbers: GOV unique number 38625, PHL unique number 42575
Class meets: MW 2:30-4:00pm in Parlin 304
Prof's office hours: MW 12:30-2:00pm in Mezes 3.106
Prof’s email: email@example.com
Prof’s office phone: 232-7229; phone does not record messages; email strongly preferred
Course website: Canvas
Prof’s website: The Underground Thomist, http://UndergroundThomist.org
Course policies: See the FAQ at the “Other Things My Students May Need” section of the Teaching page at my personal website.
PREREQUISITES, FLAGS, AND FIELD
The course can be taken as either GOV 335M or PHL 342. It carries a writing flag and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing. If taken as a government course, enrollment requires six semester hours of lower-division government. The subfield is Political Theory / Political Philosophy.
“Natural law” refers to moral law – in particular, the fundamental moral principles that are built into the design of human nature and lie at the roots of conscience. Natural law thinking is the spine of the Western tradition of ethical and legal thought. The founders of the American republic also believed in the natural law -- in universal and "self-evident" principles of justice and morality which the Declaration of Independence called "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God." For generations afterward, most Americans took the reality of natural law for granted. Thomas Jefferson appealed to it to justify independence; Abraham Lincoln appealed to it to criticize slavery; Martin Luther King appealed to it to criticize racial discrimination. You would hardly guess any of this from the present day, because belief in natural law has come to be viewed as "politically incorrect." Nevertheless, the tradition of natural law is experiencing a modest renaissance.
Is there really a natural law? What difference does it make to society and politics if there is? Is it really "natural"? Is it really "law"? To consider these questions, we will read a variety of influential works on natural law from the middle ages to the present. Probably, most of your liberal arts education has implicitly rejected the whole idea, but in this course, for a change, you have an opportunity to hear the other side.
We will focus on the classical natural law tradition, not the revisionist version which was popular among the social contract writers. The first two units of the course focus on the ethical and legal thought of the most important and influential classical natural law thinker in history, Thomas Aquinas. He is a difficult writer, but we will work through his Treatise on Law carefully and I will provide lots of help. In the final unit, which is about the continuing influence of the classical natural law tradition, we will read a number of authors including Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McLean, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, C.S. Lewis, a contemporary theologian, and two contemporary philosophers.
Unit 1, Foundations of Law: Analytical outline (25%).
Unit 2, Natural and Human Law: Take-home essay (25%).
Unit 3, Legacy of the Classical Natural Law Tradition: Whole-course journal (25%).
Class participation (25%).
Absences also affect your grade. Please read the attendance policy in the Frequently Asked Questions section of my personal scholarly website.
I do not use plusses and minuses.
Even if you prefer to use the PCL Reserve Room or read online, you must bring physical copies of the readings to class, even if only photocopies or printouts. Electronic devices such as laptops, cellphones, sound recorders, and smart pens must be powered down and stowed away during class. There are no exceptions except for pacemakers.
J. Budziszewski, Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law (Cambridge, 2014). This is a paperback.
Additional shorter readings, which will be made available on Canvas or online.
J. Budziszewski, Companion to the Commentary (Cambridge, 2014). This will be available through Canvas.