Natural Law and Public Reason

Published Date: April 14, 2000 | Topics: Natural Law

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“Public reason” is one of the central concepts in modern liberal political theory. As articulated by John Rawls, it presents a way to overcome the difficulties created by intractable differences among citizens’ religious and moral beliefs by strictly confining the place of such convictions in the public sphere.

Identifying this conception as a key point of conflict, this book presents a debate among contemporary natural law and liberal political theorists on the definition and validity of the idea of public reason. Its distinguished contributors examine the consequences of interpreting public reason more broadly as “right reason,” according to natural law theory, versus understanding it in the narrower sense in which Rawls intended. They test public reason by examining its implications for current issues, confronting the questions of abortion and slavery and matters relating to citizenship.

This energetic exchange advances our understanding of both Rawls’s contribution to political philosophy and the lasting relevance of natural law. It provides new insights into crucial issues facing society today as it points to new ways of thinking about political theory and practice.

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This book gathers twenty seven eminent moral, legal, and political philosophers, lawyers, and theologians to engage critically with the work of John Finnis, a pioneer in the development of a new yet classically-grounded theory of natural law, and contains a substantial reply by Finnis. Finnis’ work offers a systematic philosophy of practical reasoning and moral […]

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The bitter national debates over abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research have created an unbridgeable gap between religious groups and those who insist that faith-based views have no place in public policy. Religious conservatives are so adamantly opposed to stem cell research in particular that President Bush issued the first veto of his presidency over […]

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