Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Disfigured Face of Natural Law: Introduction

WE SHALL FOCUS THE NEXT SIX OR SO POSTINGS on a book by Professor Luis Cortest entitled The Disfigured Face: Traditional Natural Law and its Encounter with Modernity (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). Professor Cortest is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oklahoma University. It is apparent that his interests in the Spanish writers of the 16th century, the so-called Siglo de Oro, or the "Golden Age," of Spanish literature introduced him to the principles of the natural law which were so prevalent in that age. In earlier postings, we reviewed at some depth the auto sacramental authored by the great 17th century Spanish playwright, Pedro Calderón de la Barca entitled A Dios por razón de estado, To God by Reason of the State. For the Spanish of the Siglo de Oro, the doctrine of natural law was as prevalent and as alive in the minds and hearts of thinkers and artists as feelings of democracy, human rights, and relativism are today. Central to the thesis of Professor's Cortest book is that the great synthesis of the natural law found in St. Thomas Aquinas is based upon a certain ontology or philosophy of being, and a certain teleological or purposeful view of nature (nature has an end, a purpose, a telos, which is Greek for "end," "goal," or "purpose."). The underlying Aristotelian/Thomist ontological and teleological assumptions, central to an authentic Thomist natural law theory, have been progressively dismantled by the philosophical and scientific presuppositions stemming from the Enlightenment and Modernism. By and large, Enlightenment and Modern thought have rejected the Aristotelian/Thomist ontology and teleological view of nature. This is true--alas--of even advocates of the so-called "modern" natural law theories of Finnis, Grisez, O'Boyle, and George (what is sometimes referred to as the "Integration" natural law theories, see our previous posting By Nature Equal: Human Equality and the Natural Law, Last Possible Ally Fails where this theory is briefly discussed.) The necessity of a certain view of being (ontology) and nature (teleology) as part of a classical treatment of natural law has been also the topic of a posting on the Jesuit thinker, John Courtney Murray. See The Four Requirements of a Classical Natural Law Theory.

Professor Cortest's book has four chapters: Thomistic Ontology, Ontological Morality and Human Rights, The War of the Philosophers, The Modern Way, Pope Leo XIII and His Legacy, and The Survival of Tradition. We intend to devote one posting for each chapter.

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