Natural Law Reasoning between Statism and Dystopia: International Law and the Question of Authority

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This essay argues that a restatement of Thomistic natural law reasoning is increasingly necessary in jurisprudential debate about international law. Mindful of Pope John Paul II's call for a renewal of international law, the essay engages with the present-day tension between Morgenthau-type realism (Goldsmith and Posner) and neo-Kantian discourse-oriented cosmopolitanism (Habermas). The essay addresses whether the former is sufficiently realistic in our global 21st century context, and whether the latter is adequately cosmopolitan. Attention is drawn to Aquinas's understanding of the relation between custom, consent and political authority in order to expose some of the limits of present-day statism, and to suggest that Thomistic natural law reasoning is, potentially at least, better able to cope with the intractable disagreement that characterises 21st century global relations than some forms of neo-Kantian jurisprudence.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.

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