The Place of the Natural Law
The purpose of this paper is to scrutinize the precepts of the natural law and, in particular, their metaphysical and epistemic relationship to human nature, rationality, theology, tradition and practices. My account of the natural law is based on Alasdair MacIntyre's approach, however, since his claims regarding the dependence or independence of the natural law from the notions listed above might often seem ambiguous, I engage in a reconstruction both of how it is most plausible to read
... ible to read MacIntyre's claims concerning this topic, and how it is most plausible to conceive the natural law. MacIntyre basically argues that we can conceive the precepts of the natural law as the precepts of rational enquiry that we need to pursue in order to overcome the one-sidedness of our beliefs. I take this line of argument for his account of the natural law successful and ask the question what place the established norms have. As MacIntyre argues that all standpoints imply at least an implicit, even if not explicit, adherence to the authority of the natural law in virtue of their claim to truth, I argue that regardless of the exact content of our practices and beliefs regarding human nature, traditions and religion, we could know the basic requirements of the natural law. This is true even if the natural law itself is metaphysically dependent on human nature or on God. However, certain practices and beliefs can either shed more light or obscure the precepts of the natural law, hence it is important to learn from various traditions, religions, practices in a shared enquiry whose norms aspire to follow the actual precepts of the natural law as closely as possible.