Sunday, August 26, 2012

Three Pillars of Natural Law

There are but three pillars of natural law:

Every man has the urge to live, to love, and to know.

Man can pervert them.  Men do commit suicide; men do hate; men do fail to grow intellectually.  The perversion provides further proof of the naturalness of these three great and basic drives within man.  What we have written so far can be confirmed by any man.  He need merely look within himself.  Does he not fear death?  Does he not want to love and be loved?  Why is he reading this study except that he wants to know?

We are on ground that no philosopher or philosophy can challenge and no pretended revelation can call into doubt.

Much, much more here.

1 comment:

Grim said...

With all due respect to Father Smith, he gets through the philosophical part of it quickly enough: "If we turn to philosophy we discover so many divergent opinions that we give up in despair of an answer. We need not add a new theory and we shall not invoke an old one."

Yet within a couple of paragraphs, he's "granting" that "we are a rational animal." That happens to be one of the answers from philosophy -- Aristotle's answer, in fact, from the Metaphysics. That is also where we learn, in the first sentence, that "Men by nature desire to know," which apparently the good father believes is one of the three natural laws pertaining to men.

Pertaining to men, by the way, is also an Aristotelian point. Most modern conceptions of what it would be to be a law of nature is that they should be universally rooted: "For every x, if x is a man, then x has a desire to know." The law ends up ranging over every single thing in creation. There are some significant logical problems that emerge when you do this, but Aristotle didn't do it: he was happy to say that different things have different natures, and so you must first look to know what kind of a thing you are dealing with.

We don't actually see Aristotle credited, though, until the appendix (in a rather odd note that makes it sound like Plato and Aristotle had similar ideas about natural law and justice, which is very far from true). That's too bad. There's a huge debt here that the good Father would benefit from understanding more completely.