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The Law that Dare Not Speak Its Name Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 26 April 2013

Over the past couple of months, in the pages of First Things – both real and virtual – as well as in a few other online venues, an important and animated conversation has been occurring over the nature and limits of natural law reasoning. It started with an essay written by the eminent theologian David Bentley Hart (author of the magnificent book Atheist Delusions). His critics have included philosophers Edward Feser (here and here) and R. J. Snell (here and here).  Among Hart’s sympathizers are Rod Dreher, Peter Leithart, and Alan Jacobs, a soon-to-be colleague of mine at Baylor.

The strength of Hart’s case against natural law depends on a claim made by the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776).  According to Hume, one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.” Explains Hart: “Even if one could exhaustively describe the elements of our nature, the additional claim that we are morally obliged to act in accord with them, or to prefer natural uses to unnatural, would still be adventitious to the whole ensemble of facts that this description would comprise.”

So, for example, it does not follow from the fact that human beings require nutrition and hydration for survival that it is morally wrong that Josef Stalin starve the residents of the Ukraine and place its dissenting Orthodox priests and bishops in Siberian Gulags.  No knowledge of the human good, according to Hart, follows from human nature.

There is a sense in which Hart is correct, if all he means is that mere observations of human nature, without any recourse to what we seem to know about the human good, can ever tell us what is good for human beings. But in that case he just begs the question, since he is abstracting from his picture of the world what he claims is not essential to viewing it and what his critics claim is in fact essential to viewing it.

It would be like a jealous Boston Celtics fan explaining to a Miami Heat fan that the Celtics are better than the Heat if one just imagines that Dwayne Wade and LeBron James do not play for Miami, and then based on that abstraction conclude that because the Heat can exist without Wade and James, therefore, it is perfectly appropriate to compare the present Celtics to the Wade-James-less Heat.

That is precisely Hart’s strategy: “The assumption that the natural and moral orders are connected to one another in any but a purely pragmatic way must be logically antecedent to our interpretation of the world; it is a belief about nature, but not a natural belief as such; it is a supernatural judgment that renders natural reality intelligible in a particular way.”


     David Bentley Hart

In other words, any oughtness we attribute to human nature is not derived from human nature, but rather, from a conceptual framework we impose on human nature. Thus, the natural law is not natural. It is, in the words of Hart, a prompting of “one’s prior supernatural convictions.”

If that is in fact the case – that all judgments of “ought” are artificial impositions with no universal import since nature qua nature is devoid of final and formal causes – then it’s not clear why we should worry about Hart’s prescription. He is, after all, suggesting to his readers that given the nature of nature, they ought to agree with him. So, if one cannot get an “ought” from an “is,” how does Hart manage to do it? 

It’s because the law is “written on our hearts,” (Romans 2:15), and that even those who vehemently deny it, must at some point rely on its insights to make their case. Thus, we can ask Hart, why should one embrace your argument? Is it because it provides truth to us, and it is good to embrace the truth? And if it is, what is the basis for believing that embracing the truth is good?

One answer – and the one that seems to make the most sense – is that the human mind is ordered toward the truth: because of its form, the mind’s end is the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. For this reason, if Hart is correct, one would lack virtue if one intentionally and willfully rejected his case.

But such a judgment depends on deriving an “ought” from an “is,” precisely because our knowledge of what “is” includes not only its material and efficient causes, about which we are conspicuously aware, but also our tacit apprehension of its formal and final causes that dare not speak their name.

Hart is certainly correct, as he notes in his essay, that we live in an age in which this understanding is denied by many in our culture who have embraced a mechanistic view of nature. But as we have seen from Hart’s own example, a verbal denial is not the same as an actual denial. Sometimes people practice what they don’t preach. Our duty, as Christians, is to draw their attention to this fact, to tell them of the unknown God they worship in ignorance. (Acts 17:22-23)

 
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University, where he is also a Resident Fellow in the Institute for Studies of Religion.
 
 
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written by Athanasius, April 26, 2013
"Sometimes people practice what they don't preach."

I do believe this is true. As evidence, I propose that even Hollywood, that bastion of moral relativism, still will produce stories that have solid Christian morals desire themselves. And quite often these stories are successful at the box office, showing that people still hunger for the truth.

Look to the recent success of Les Miserables and The Hobbit as examples.
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written by chris c. , April 26, 2013
Excellent column, and rebuttal to the Hart point of view. Your use of the knowledge of human need for food and water and asking whether moral consuequences follow therefrom; such as the Stalin era starvation of the Ukraine, is particularly apt and I wonder if it could be taken a step further. A mother, knowing full well that her infant newborn requires nutrition to survive knowns instinctively does she not, that she must provide such nutrition? The "ought" follows the "is" quite naturally does it not? At least on the basic level of human need it does not seem all that complicated.
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written by Stanley Anderson, April 26, 2013
I have a philosophical idea I call N.I.N.E. (which stands for the "Negative Inverse of Non-Existence", intended as a lighthearted parody of the sort of instructions I often was told to "experience" in college art classes, which I then adopted as a name for this -- very seriously intended -- philosophical idea). It is of course not original and variations of it can be found in many philosophers and such, but my (again somewhat lightheartedly intended) simplistic description of it goes something like this: "If something is wrong there must be something else that is right for that first thing to be wrong about."

I most often use the idea in connections with assertions that we don't "really" have free will -- ie, that we mistakenly attribute free will to actions that have deterministic or random origins. My question then is "What is that 'thing' we called 'free will' that we mistook these other actions for?" For even if every instance we can find of what we thought was free will turned out to be mechanistic, we still have the fact that we now know that they were mistaken. How can we make a mistake about something is there is not a "real" thing elsewhere to mistake this thing here for?

Anyway, it seems to apply to the concept of "ought" being described as a mistake -- ie, that the "ought" we thought was not "really" an "ought" but something else. Perhaps so, but then what is that "real" ought that we mistook the fake "ought" for?
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written by Graham Combs, April 26, 2013
There is simply no denying that First Things has been adrift since the death of Fr. Neuhaus. Yes FT is still pro-life. But its "all-sides" approach to what will be a de-Sacramentalization of Marriage is well on its way to disasterous conclusions in the spirit of Prof. Hart's. His big brain approach to morality reminds me of something that Ayn Rand once said to William F. Buckley, "You're too smart to believe in God." And Prof. Hart reminds me also of the daily experience of being a Catholic -- a Church that is in complete denial of the America around it. As we watch the imminent destruction of the Boy Scouts this week, we have to recognize that we have blown up pretty much everything in this country: marriage, family, learning, the arts, letters, and music, popular culture, work ethic, and in Prof.Hart's case, a thoughtfulness that is morphing into something like the liturgical egoism confronted every Sunday. But then I haven't been to Mass in weeks and have myself come to the conclusion that at this point I have to find a way and a place to practice the Faith, but it won't be in the diocese in which I now live. The head winds to the Faith are perhaps too great within the Church. As Benedict XVI implied when he spoke of the silence of God, it is the Church that is a Cross.
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written by Louise, April 26, 2013
Graham, Graham, Graham! You haven't been to Mass in weeks? Through your own fault? If so, please stop the madness. There is wheat in them thar weeds.
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written by Louise, April 26, 2013
Francis, it seems to me that the the fourth para in Hart's essay contains a charicature rather than a characterization of what natural law theorists say, but I'm not sure:
"the natural law theorist insists that the moral meaning of nature should be perfectly evident to any properly reasoning mind, regardless of religious belief or cultural formation."

Does any natural law theorist really say that?

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written by Howard Kainz, April 26, 2013
As I mentioned in my October 18 TCT column last year, this is not the only article published by First Things criticizing natural law. What the articles have in common is that they mention no natural law theory, but we are to presume that the authors must have some knowledge of the various theories of natural law emerging during the last two millennia. As I mentioned in my letter to First Things (published in the current issue), Hart, like many others, misunderstands Hume's "guillotine." Hume said "oughts" cannot be derived from external facts but can be derived from internal facts of human nature. Hume says, for example, "See if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which-ever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but `tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. The fact that we feel a strong repugnance against murder leads us to conclude that murder is wrong." Hume was a "moral sense" theorist, but as Frederick Copleston, S.J., observes in one of his History of Philosophy volumes, his approach is very much akin to natural law.
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written by sam wainwright, April 26, 2013
With all respect Dr. Beckwith, your interpretation of Romans 2:15 is flat out wrong. "The law written upon hearts" is not intended to be an account of human beings in their natural state. If you want to know what Paul thinks of that natural state, refer to Roman 1:18-32 (it's not pretty and it's quite far from positive account of natural law as most Catholic moral theologians understand it).

"law upon the hearts" is a clear reference to Jeremiah 31:31-33 as well as Deuteronomy 30:6 . It refers ONLY to people of the new covenant who have experienced the promised inner renewal that only grace can bring. They are the renewed Israel and the restored humanity and are thus set apart from old Israel and old humanity according to the flesh precisely because the law has been written on their hearts making circumcision irrelevant. This verse has been profoundly wrenched out of context by natural law theorists for centuries because its placement within the context of Romans and its clear allusion to the OT has been completely ignored.

In general, your argument is not very convincing. Basically you are contending that the embrace of the whole natural law theory is implicit in the acceptance of any truth claim. I understand that maybe its the best you could do in 800 words. But I doubt this would convince Hart or anyone else from a more Eastern Christian tradition who hold that inner renewal is first necessary to see the world as it really is.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, April 26, 2013
I fancy that your argument that someone “ought” to accept a conclusion is ringing the changes on two senses of the word “ought.”

The terms “should” or “ought” or “needs” certainly do relate to good and bad: e.g. machinery needs oil, or should or ought to be oiled, in that running without oil is bad for it, or it runs badly without oil. But we certainly should not equate "should," "needs," "ought," "must" here with the legal or moral sense of "is obliged," or "is bound," or "is required to.”
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written by Francis J. Beckwith, April 26, 2013
Sam writes: "Basically you are contending that the embrace of the whole natural law theory is implicit in the acceptance of any truth claim."

What I am contending is that if I can show that in one instance the is/ought fallacy can be bested, then Hart is defeated in that claim, which is the core of his case. You're reading far too much into my comments. Awareness of the natural law does require that one get it all in one fell swoop. One can, as St. Paul states, suppress large swaths of it. But you can't escape it entirely. This is why even an unregenerate man knows that he ought not to give his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, and if he denies that, he doesn't like it much when he's given a stone when he expects a loaf of bread.

As for Rom. 2:15, the context is the Gentiles' awareness of the law without the old covenant. That's the point: The fact that he is using a passage from Jeremiah means that Paul is talking ironically. For if he were talking literally we would have to conclude that the old covenant is indistinguishable from the new covenant since the former is about which Jeremiah writes. Moreover, the reference to Romans 1 actually dovetails rather nicely with my point. Suppressing the truth assumes that one knows it, even if one does so in a way that percolates beneath one's direct awareness.

Even so, your interpretation of Rom 2:15 is not the obvious reading. Mine has its fair share of notable champions.

Clearly, you are not claiming that one has to have special revelation in order for one to know the moral law? If so, then God's condemnation of Cain was unjust.
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written by Josh, April 26, 2013
Sam, I too used to believe that "the law written on the heart" to which Paul refers was a reference to regenerate Christians. However, I'm not so sure anymore. At the risk of derailing this thread, I suggest that you check out Tom Schreiner's treatment of this passage in his Romans commentary. He makes a pretty strong case for the natural law reading.
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written by Sam Wainwright, April 26, 2013
Thanks for your reply. But where to begin.

Jeremiah is speaking of a future covenant (the only time in fact that a "new covenant" is explicity referred to in the OT). It is the New Covenant that Paul is playing on in Romans 2, that he of course believes has come to pass with Christ. That's point 1.

Point 2 is that his comparison in Romans 2 is not the slightest bit concerned with Gentiles without the old covenant vs. Jews under the Old Covenant....both are in a wretched state before God (under sin and death to be precise). The Jews are guilty because the law convicts them. The Gentiles are guilty because the basic will of God is known to them through creation (1:18-32). On this we agree...but this is no comfort for the standard Catholic natural law exposition. Paul provides no reason to hope that Gentiles can and will do good as they understand the good. What they know of the moral law of God is enough to render them culpable but not enough to provide grounded hope that they will do it. The example of noble pagans that seems to be in the back of every natural law theorists mind is a null set in Paul's mind. Such people exist of course but Paul would tell us to quit wasting our time looking for them or fashioning arguments for the public square that assume we can use reason to convince them of moral truths. Look around you Dr. Beckwith. Natural law arguments don't work. They don't persuade anyone. And Paul would tell you why (1:18-1:32). If moral theologians want to maintain this concept out of fidelity to the particular construals of the Thomistic tradition of nature/grace fine, teach it in semninary---but all Hart is saying is let's forget the idea that "natural law" as you, Robert George or Hadley Arkes et al. conceive it is going to achieve anything in the public discussion of morality.

Paul would say forget natural law and preach the gospel instead.

Indeed the person in 2:15 is the Gentile of the New Covenant who has the law on his heart is more of a law keeper than the hypothetical circumcised Jew of the Old Covenant. I think my reading is much, much more obvious when you read 2:15 in light of 2:25-29. (Let's be honest and admit that most theologians proof-text 2:15 without much examining it in the context of the argument) The people of the true circumcision are those who have been renewed in the heart (Deut 30:6; Jer 9:29; 31:31-34)...they are Christian Gentiles who compare quite favorably to Jews who only boast circumcision in the flesh.

The person circumcised of heart is the same as the person who has the law written on his heart. These are two ways of describing the same person..who now not only knows the law, but (unlike old Jewish or Gentile humanity) can actually keep it.

Convinced?
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written by peterson, April 26, 2013
"These are two ways of describing the same person..who now not only knows the law, but (unlike old Jewish or Gentile humanity) can actually keep it."

John Bunyan: “The man who does not know the nature of the Law cannot know the nature of sin. And he who does not know the nature of sin cannot know the nature of the Savior”.

St Augustine: “Through the Law, God opens man’s eyes so that he sees his helplessness and by faith takes refuge to His mercy and is healed. The Law was given in order that we might seek grace, grace was given in order that we might fulfill the Law”.

To know sin (and our need for salvation since we can't keep it), we must have knowledge of the law. And so it seems an appropriate reading of St Paul that God always made known his eternal law to fallen man via nature (i.e., natural law) and revelation (i.e., divine law), so that we might realize our brokenness and turn to him for his healing grace.
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written by Louise, April 26, 2013
Sam, I don't see that your interpretation is in harmony with the Cathechism. This subject is sprinkled throughout the catechism in various sections but there is also a section devoted just to the subject of natural law that starts at #1954. Of course the firmer you are in the true faith, the clearer the natural law will be but it is not just true believer's who discern it.

Here's an excerpt:

1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties: (2261)


For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense.... To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9
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written by Lamont, April 27, 2013
Rather than simply criticizing Hart for throwing out such a poorly formed argument, I think it would be far more helpful if everyone concerned would try a little harder to understand why Hart wrote what he did. The current situation is such that atheists, relativists, secularists, utilitarians, pragmatists, and natural law theorists all claim to be able to be able to defend moral values based on reason alone. The problem for Catholics in particular is that natural law theorists have not been able to successfully counter the attacks on Christian moral theology through reason alone. Hart’s conclusion is that every form of moral rationalism has failed, and that Christians in general have no choice except to follow the eastern Church in defending moral theology through a rigorous defense of Divine Revelation and natural theology. The important point is that Hart maybe correct in his conclusions even if is argument is not sound.

The best response to Hart would be to explain teleology or final causality in terms that restore the natural law to its position as the only way in which to explain the fundamental moral principles which all men of good will hold in common. That as yet has not been done, but it is a project worth working on.
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written by Steve Golay, April 28, 2013
Is not Hart an Eastern Orthodox Christian? In tackling his position on Natural Law I see little of that (assuming, very vital) detail entering into the discussion. How being an Orthodox Cristian determines, conditions, informs David Hart's thinking on the subject. It certainly has in that volume his which everyone praises him for, the one on beauty. David dwelling in the House of Orthodoxy enlightened his take on "beauty", yet also crippled it. The brilliant light he shed on the subject was, in fact, brittle. Brittle light fractures. His carting the same m.o. into the subject of Natural Law only highlights (sorry!) the weakness of his approach, his take on things, the nature of his ordering.
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written by Miriam, April 29, 2013
The author writes:

"The strength of Hart’s case against natural law depends on a claim made by the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). According to Hume, one cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. Explains Hart: 'Even if one could exhaustively describe the elements of our nature, the additional claim that we are morally obliged to act in accord with them, or to prefer natural uses to unnatural, would still be adventitious to the whole ensemble of facts that this description would comprise.'”

Hmmmm. So, who is correct? Hume or St. Thomas Aquinas? Does knowledge compel LOVE? Is it inevitable that LOVE follows knowledge?

Did human REASON evolve first before our hands could be joined in prayer? Or were we created in the image of GOD first?

Can we arrive at LOVE by way of REASON? Or is FAITH a gift?

As for myself, I believe everything begins with a GIFT --- the gift of time, the gift of REASON, the gift of FAITH --- because GOD loved us first.

I believe Jesus (not St. Thomas) is correct. We will know the Father ONLY through JESUS (and only if we LOVE HIM FIRST).

The TRUTH does not exist outside of GOD and GOD is larger than any human vessel can contain.

So, if we want to know the TRUTH(i.e. GOD), we must LOVE FIRST.

Human Knowledge follows Divine Love ALWAYS.

Of course, this means evangelizing atheists has become that much harder. (I do not offer hope.) Because God does not ask us to win their minds, God asks us to crush their hearts.
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written by carmel, April 29, 2013
In theory Feser is right, in practice Hart is. What I miss in the whole discussion is the relation between the potential grasp of the natural law by the human intellect and the reality of original sin.The Fall did not and could not erase the Imago Dei from the human being, but it certainly distorted it deeply enough to warrant the redemption of man by Our Lord Jesus Christ.The best that unaided human reason working on natural law could produce was Aristotle, while the 'natural supernatural' understanding of it could only have been arrived at by an Aquinas. They are obviously not the same.
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written by John II, April 29, 2013
In his own response to his critics in the current issue of FT, Hart lets loose a kind of insouciant impishness that may be a clue to a kind of subtext in his argument. He obviously doesn't make a serious case against natural law, as Francis Beckwith shows, but instead seems to me to be engaged in a parody of over-rationalistic attempts to outline the notion.

The term itself (we get it from the Roman Stoics) doesn't seem to me to do justice to the suppleness of the notion or to the personal experience of the awkward term's referent.

Early Christian theologians gave it a more judicious name at the Council of Arles in 473 (when eastern and western Christianity were not yet at such embarrassing loggerheads). They called the interior faculty of discerning right and wrong the First Grace.
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written by Johannes, April 30, 2013
"what is the basis for believing that embracing the truth is good?"

If "good" means "conducive to the realization of the fullness of one's being", the answer is self-evident.

If someone does not embrace the truth of the law of gravity and acts in consequence, he will at some time fall down a height and injure himself or die.

If someone in the wild does not embrace the truth that lions, bears and wolves are carnivores and acts in consequence, he will at some time become their food.

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written by DavidM, May 02, 2013
"Look around you Dr. Beckwith. Natural law arguments don't work. They don't persuade anyone." - Look around some more, Sam. You are simply wrong about this.
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written by Shaun, May 04, 2013
POST 1/2 - "If moral theologians want to maintain this concept out of fidelity to the particular construals of the Thomistic tradition of nature/grace fine, teach it in seminary---but all Hart is saying is let's forget the idea that "natural law" as you, Robert George or Hadley Arkes et al. conceive it is going to achieve anything in the public discussion of morality."

I commend Ed Feser's responses to Hart to you Sam. Natural law makes claims about moral ontology. How one thinks that claim should be used in public debates cannot be separated from whether or not natural law theories are true. It is unsuprising that someone who disagrees with the ontology of natural law theories also claims that we should not advance NL arguments in the public square. It is an odd move, though, to grant its ontology ad argumentum, and then to think that the existence of disagreement should persuade advocates to stop talking about it. I'll explain.


d that he only rejects attempts to use NL's moral ontology as a premise in an argument for public policy decisions that we (both NL and non-NL believers) are after. One should select the most broadly acceptable, and therefore cogent, premises in support of arguments. According to Leithart, NL is not cogent and should be avoided. But whether NL is cogent as a premise is just what is up for debate; both intramurally among believers and out in the public square. Methodologically speaking, once NL was publically offered, and it generated public detractors, two options became available. Either defend it or abandon it. Leithart says we should abandon it because it is unpopular. If a plausible story about the popular rejection of NL can be given that is consistent with NL's being true, the move to defend it cannot, in principle, be blocked by an appeal to popularity.
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written by Shaun, May 04, 2013
Post 1/2 (again) I somehow cut out an entire middle section of my previous post. This should be inserted from "I'll explain."
----------------------
Leithart in his article declares that theologically minded folks are the only ones who take natural law arguments seriously. He might mean two different things here: (a) they (theologically minded people) are the only ones who *could* take NL seriously; or (b) they are the only ones who *do* take it seriously. If he means (a), then he must ignore the philosophical history of the theory. Traditional natural law theory identifies natural order according to Aristotelian essences and metaphysical teleology. Aristotelian arguments do not depend on a particular theological framework to go through, so there is no immediately evident reason that they would be unpalatable to Darwinians (the opponent Leithart has in mind in his article.) Perhaps Leithart means that only those who are theologically informed would take Aristotelian arguments to be instantly persuasive? While this may be true, why should that matter? Persuasion can take awhile.

Arguments depending on theological claims may be unfruitful when used in public policy discussion because not everyone grants the epistemic authority of revelation. Arguments dependent on philosophical claims don't have that problem. It's unclear whether Leithart recognizes this distinction, and if he does what he would say about it.

Of course, obviously false arguments shouldn't be advanced whether philosophical or not. Fortunately, NL is not one of those. NL depends on broadly available intuitions that get worked out in a really sensible way. Leithart's strongest argument for the impossibility of NL's acceptance by the public is that the majority of people disagree with its philosophical starting points (final causes.) But he fails to explain why that is an incontrovertible roadblock, and not just a methodological obstacle. The best he offers is the following argument. (i) Modern intuitions tend to reject Aristotelian metaphysics. (ii) We should convince as many people as we can. (ii) Arguments that appeal to modern intuitions convince people. (iv) We should craft arguments that are consistent with the rejection of Aristotelian metaphysics. As Dr. Beckwith says above, Leithart commits his own is/ought fallacy here. In doing so he inadvertently presumes that influencing modern intuitions is off the table; either because it would be wrong, or impossible, to do so.
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written by Shaun, May 04, 2013
Part 3/3 - What about (b)? If Leithart means this, his position is confusing. If traditional NL theories are right, what is good for us is acceptance of (and living in accordance with) the right ontology. It is incoherent to claim that NL proponents should stop arguing for an ontology they take to be true just because there are dissenters. Leithart will respond that he only rejects attempts to use NL's moral ontology as a premise in an argument for public policy decisions...

(insert first post here, and finish with the following)....

The NL theorist offers such a story by pointing to false assumptions in both modern ontology (the unwarranted primacy of efficient causality over final causality that resulted from the success of the sciences) and modern ethics (the unwarranted primacy of voluntarism that is a necessary outgrowth of taking the naturalistic fallacy as true.) Both of these led to the modern rejection of NL. The traditional NL proponent would go further and claim that Aristotelian teleology/ontology is the best support available for public arguments about the goodness of our policy aims (eg., prevention of same-sex marriage.) Voluntarist accounts of ethical value cannot provide the motivation nor the grounding for moral action, while teleological accounts can. Leithart's best option here is to attack that claim directly. If he were to do so, there would be potentially fruitful refinement of moral theology between believers. However, when he offers prescriptions about NL's public usefulness, he begs the question against the NL theorist.
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written by Bella, January 05, 2014
Hart said that Hume's argument is "formally correct," not that it is a correct way of viewing reality. That is, it is formally consistent: given its premises, its conclusions follow.

If found it odd that those who disagreed with Hart missed two things: 1. He was making a statement about NL arguments that do not start from a fully worked out metaphysics that naturally links is and ought; 2. And he was rejecting the NL arguments of the Second Scholasticism, which he sees as creating an artificial partition between natural knowledge and supernatural, and which therefore makes every Nl argument "formally" incorrect.

Why they missed this, I do not know. Maybe because guys like Feser are so used to seeing the argument in terms of a modern division between fideism and rationalism, and so they did not see that Hart was making an argument that does not fit in those narrow categories. More simply, he thinks the nouvelle theologie got it right and the two-tier Thomists get it wrong.
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written by Bella, January 09, 2014
Ih, and, by the way, Hart makes clear that he believes in the law written on the heart. What he does not believe is simply that certain forms of NL argument work, and all he means by that is that they work from an artificially constricted view of nature. I am sorry, but Beckeith still has not quite gotten the point.

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