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ARISTOTLE, ANTIGONE AND NATURAL JUSTICE

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Abstract:

This paper, responding to recent work by Tony Burns, has two main interpretive purposes first, to explain in what sense Aristotle's natural justice is natural, yet variable; and second, to explain why Aristotle interpreted Antigone's defence as an appeal to natural law (rather than, say, to particular unwritten law). This requires a careful untangling of Aristotle's usage of 'natural' in several different senses, both descriptive and normative. In short, it is normatively natural for humans to excel at what is distinctive of their descriptive nature. Since human descriptive nature is flexible, so is what is normatively natural for humans. And it is a matter of natural justice that one must not be hindered from or punished for doing what is normatively natural. This Aristotelian line of thought is then briefly explored as it reappears in Edmund Burke’s discussion of natural law.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Box 353350, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3350, USA, Email: angelic1@u.washington.edu

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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