How Is Natural Law Promulgated? A Phenomenological Approach to Aquinas's Natural Law Theory
How is Natural Law Promulgated? A Phenomenological Approach to Aquinas’s Natural Law TheoryScott Roniger, Ph.D.Director: Robert Sokolowski, Ph.D. Thomas Aquinas maintains that the natural law is a law to the fullest possible extent; it is truly and not just metaphorically law, and as such, it must be promulgated in a non-metaphorical sense. If such law is to be natural in the sense of being naturally known as directive for human actions, then the issue of the promulgation of natural law is a central philosophical issue. However, natural law theorists have spent comparatively little time investigating the precise manner in which the natural law is promulgated. Aquinas’s treatment of law comes within a theological context, which structures his ontological approach to the issues of natural law. To illuminate the promulgation of natural law philosophically, we introduce some themes from phenomenology in order to ascertain how moral issues and obligations manifest themselves. In the first chapter, we distinguish between the order of being and the order of discovery. In order to study the promulgation of the natural law, we develop an approach to the order of discovery using insights from phenomenology. Distinguishing between the natural attitude and the philosophical attitude, we show that the natural law is originally discovered by human agents in the natural attitude. Finally, we outline various answers to the question of how the natural law is promulgated, and we delineate how our answer is more complete than those given thus far. In the second chapter, we give a detailed discussion of Aquinas’s understanding of law. We show that for Aquinas promulgation is the material cause of law, and we discuss his claim that of creation is the original mode of promulgating the natural law. The issue of secondary causality is crucial in this chapter, and we show that Aquinas presents an interesting structure in the promulgation of law. For Aquinas, the legislator is the primary promulgator of a law, but the full promulgation includes secondary agents, or co-promulgators, who operate in the medium of language in order to make the law known. In the case of natural law, human agents are the co-promulgators of the law, while God is the legislator and primary promulgator who gives human agents a share in this work of governing created reality. In the third chapter, we turn to a more explicitly phenomenological approach, with a focus on language, in order to show how we originally manifest the normativity of the natural law. We discuss how human agents are measured by the being and ends of things at the level of perception and speech. We show that language puts human agents in touch with the being and ends of things while also giving them an intellectual distance from them. Language enables human agents to handle presence and absence and introduces them into social and political life. Finally, language enables the distinction between ends and purposes, which is the original manifestation of the natural law. In the fourth chapter, we show that the manifestation of the natural law begun with the use of language is perfected in virtuous action. Virtuous action forms the character necessary to recognize the naturally good, or the good in itself, as the good of the agent, and it also manifests the ends of human nature. Through the natural pedagogy of imitation, the virtuous agent becomes the rule and measure for human action and therefore continues the promulgation of the natural law by showing others what the law demands in concrete situations. Aquinas says that the secondary precepts of the natural law can be deleted through corrupt personal habits, vicious customs, and bad arguments. We show that the natural law can be promulgated through the inculcation of moral virtue, healthy customs, and rectified speech. In the conclusion, we show that the natural law pertains to the best human life; it has an essential role to play in human happiness and the imitation of the divine.
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