Home » The Moral Noetic of the Natural Law

Law: the word, to many, conjures images of the courtroom or a legislature—ponderous tomes of tediously-written jargon rendering a complex web of oft-arbitrary-seeming stipulations and impingements.  So prevalent is this imagery that to speak of the “natural law” sounds often like a mere metaphor.  Exacerbating this “metaphorical” tenor of the phrase has been its use in ideological battles.  Sometimes it is made a shield against criticism; other times, a sword to cut down proposals.  But again and again, as history well shows, return to the notion is made, and not coincidentally when threat is made to the coherence of “nature” as normative in human experience.

The revival of interest in natural law in our own time is certainly related to the devastations wrought by positivism and existentialism in the intellectual and political life of a considerable part of Western society, which it is generally agreed is undergoing rapid and radical transformations.  By our own example, then, we realize how the theory of natural law may be influenced by the aspirations of a society, at a certain moment of its evolution, and how great is the danger for that theory of becoming nothing more than an expression of these aspirations.

Simon 1965: The Tradition of Natural Law: A Philosopher’s Reflections, 27.

Rather than capitulate theory of the natural law to these “aspirations of a society”, one ought instead to understand what that law is.  Perhaps most poignantly, we need to understand how that law is known.  How do we discover the first principles of the natural law?  How do these principles inform our moral reasoning?  Join us for this 8-week seminar, led by Dr. Matthew Minerd, to investigate these and other related questions.  Deadline for registration is 5 July 2023.

Schedule

Discussion Sessions

11:00am ET

(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings


July
8
Lecture 1: Problematizing the Natural Law
Historical overview of the Natural Law; Gleanings from the history of natural law thinkers; lay of the land in some contemporary natural law debates.
Readings:
» Simon, chs. 1 and 2.
July
15
Lecture 2: Theoretical Issues in the Background of Natural Law Discussions
Discussion of various themes in the background when discussing the natural law: nature, freedom, reason, natural theology, action theory.
Reading:
» Simon, ch. 3.
July
22
Lecture 3: Law in General: Its Nature, Division, and Properties
Reading of Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of law in general.  Closest attention will be given to the general definition of law and the particular divisions of law.
Reading:
» ST I-II, q. 90–92.
» Simon, ch. 4.
July
29
Lecture 4: Natural Law and Human Law
Reading of Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of natural law and human law, the latter considered as a concretization of the natural law.
Reading (same for weeks 4 and 5):
» ST I-II, q. 93–97.
» Simon, ch. 5.
August
5

BREAK
August
12
Lecture 5: Natural Law and Human Law (continued)
Reading of Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of natural law and human law, the latter considered as a concretization of the natural law.
Reading (same for weeks 4 and 5):
» ST I-II, q. 93–97.
» Simon, ch. 5.
August
19
Lecture 6: The Noetics of the Natural Law
Introduction to the critiques of practical reason needed for understanding how the natural law is known.  (This will develop themes that we will have already encountered in Simon).
Reading:
» Minerd, Matthew K.  “A Note on Synderesis, Moral Science, and Knowledge of the Natural Law.” Lex naturalis 5 (2020): 43–55.
» Rhonheimer, Martin.  “Practical Reason and the ‘Naturally Rational’: On the Doctrine of the Natural Law as a Principle of Praxis in Thomas Aquinas.” 
August
26
Lecture 7: Some Basic Discussion of New Natural Law and its Critics
The NNLT has developed quite a bit in the past sixty years.  It has many branches, more than we can cover in an introductory seminar.  We will consider a terminus a quo in an important early article by Germain Grisez and a terminus ad quem in a recent critique by Steven Jensen. 
Readings:
» Grisez, Germain G.  “The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae, 1-2, Question 94, Article 2.” Natural Law Forum 10 (1965): 168–201.
» Jensen, Steven J.  “The Fatal Flaw of New Natural Law Action Theory.”  The Thomist 86, no. 4 (October 2022): 543–572.
September
2
Lecture 8: Final Thoughts about the Natural Law
Discussion of the place of Natural Law in Thomism.  Some comments on the place of natural law in early Christianity and in Orthodox thought.  Closing remarks on the importance / state of the natural law today
Readings:
» Harakas, Stanley.  “Eastern Orthodox Perspectives on Natural Law.”  Selected Papers from the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Christian Ethics (1977): 41-56.
» Bourke, Vernon J. “Is Thomas Aquinas a Natural Law Ethicist?” The Monist 58, no. 1 (1974): 52–66.
» Simon, ch. 6.

Registration

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, priced according to likely levels of income. If you wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the suggested rate, it is acceptable to sign up at a less-expensive level. The idea is: pay what you can. Those who can pay more, should, so that those who cannot pay as much, need not. Lyceum Institute members receive a further discount (see here for details).

One payment covers all 8 weeks.

If you prefer an alternative payment method (i.e., not PayPal), use our contact form and state whether you prefer to pay as a Participant, Patron, or Benefactor, and an invoice will be emailed to you.

[2023 Summer] Moral Noetic – Public Participant

A payment level recommended for those who are currently students, who are between jobs, or who have part-time employment.

$60.00

[2023 Summer] Moral Noetic – Public Patron

Recommended for those in professions that do not pay as well as they ought and for whom continued education is especially important (including professors and clergy). Helps allow us to subsidize lower-cost registrations.

$135.00

[2023 Summer] Moral Noetic – Public Benefactor

Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more. Greatly aids us in allowing to subsidize lower-cost registrations.

$200.00

Pricing Comparison

Standard priceBasic Lyceum
Enrollment
Advanced Lyceum EnrollmentPremium Lyceum Enrollment
Benefactor$200 per seminar$903 seminars included
$90 after
8 seminars included
$90 after
Patron$135 per seminar$653 seminars included
$65 after
8 seminars included
$65 after
Participant$80 per seminar$403 seminars included
$40 after
8 seminars included
$40 after

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