Natural Law: A Good Idea That Does Not Work Very Well (At Least Not in the Current Secular Society)

Within the Church, natural law is an effective tool for analyzing bioethical problems. Still, it does not work as effectively in civil discourse, since the assumptions of natural law are not necessarily shared. Civil laws in the West at the end of modernity do not assume any particular telos for ind...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Christian bioethics
Main Author: Thobaben, James R. 1954-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: Oxford University Press [2016]
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In: Christian bioethics
Year: 2016, Volume: 22, Issue: 2, Pages: 213-237
Online Access: Volltext (Verlag)
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Summary:Within the Church, natural law is an effective tool for analyzing bioethical problems. Still, it does not work as effectively in civil discourse, since the assumptions of natural law are not necessarily shared. Civil laws in the West at the end of modernity do not assume any particular telos for individual persons or for the society at large. Trying to find common moral ground for bioethics using natural law is problematic, not in the Church, but in the broader society, because claims of natural law are functionally foundationless for many in civil debates. "New natural law" approaches have been offered in an attempt to address this concern, but these often seem to be part of the natural law tradition only in name. In this review of the articles in this edition of Christian Bioethics, the strengths of the various natural law approaches used are affirmed, but strong limits in civil applicability are explained. An alternative is offered that seems more practical, allowing Christians to find points of agreement with nonbelievers by determining shared, albeit often quite limited, functional values or middle axioms that allow consideration of specific bioethical concerns.
ISSN:1744-4195
Contains:Enthalten in: Christian bioethics
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1093/cb/cbw007