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Nature as Reason
A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law
POD; Published: 12/20/2004
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4906-9
Price: $ 40.50
432 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6.25 x 9.25
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This noteworthy book develops a new theory of the natural law that takes its orientation from the account of the natural law developed by Thomas Aquinas, as interpreted and supplemented in the context of scholastic theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Though this history might seem irrelevant to twenty-first-century life, Jean Porter shows that the scholastic approach to the natural law still has much to contribute to the contemporary discussion of Christian ethics. Aquinas and his interlocutors provide a way of thinking about the natural law that is distinctively theological while at the same time remaining open to other intellectual perspectives, including those of science.

In the course of her work, Porter examines the scholastics' assumptions and beliefs about nature, Aquinas's account of happiness, and the overarching claim that reason can generate moral norms. Ultimately, Porter argues that a Thomistic theory of the natural law is well suited to provide a starting point for developing a more nuanced account of the relationship between specific beliefs and practices. While Aquinas's approach to the natural law may not provide a system of ethical norms that is both universally compelling and detailed enough to be practical, it does offer something that is arguably more valuable -- namely, a way of reflecting theologically on the phenomenon of human morality.

James F. Keenan, S. J.
"After a decade of provocative publications, Jean Porter has marshaled her arguments into a cohesive natural law theory that addresses the concerns and biases marking the twenty-first century. With a nod to both medieval scholasticism and the present-day natural sciences, Porter presents her theory as providing a theological foundation and framework for understanding morality, the virtues, ethical norms, moral progress, and happiness. Along the way she engages the relevant works of philosophers and theologians, both Catholic and Protestant. With a clear, amiable voice she maps out where she stands in the assembly of her colleagues. In doing so, she takes on a bit of the persona of Thomas Aquinas, who, while offering his own proposals, always anticipated the response of his own contemporaries. Porter's own Summa on the natural law is mature, comprehensive scholarship at its best."
Charles E. Curran
"This book is the capstone of Jean Porter's twenty years of intense research and extensive writing on Thomistic and Christian ethics. In dialogue with the scholastic tradition and with contemporary theologians and philosophers, Porter develops a distinctive and somewhat surprising contemporary natural law approach to theological ethics. Nature as Reason solidifies her role as a very significant voice in Christian ethics today."
Nigel Biggar
"In this book Jean Porter's important project gathers momentum. Drawing on resources furnished by her earlier exposition and analysis of scholastic thought, she here begins to construct an original 'Thomistic theory of natural law.' Unapologetically theological and yet operating in the common terms of prerational human nature, Porter maps out a way to transcend the sterile options of modern rationalism on the one hand and Christian sectarianism on the other. The clarity of her writing is an expression of her mastery of the material — classic and contemporary, philosophical and theological, Catholic and Protestant. This is fundamental work of the first rank."
The Times Literary Supplement
"The theology that emerges from Porter's work is that rare mixture of robust doctrine and generosity and toleration grounded on that robustness. . . This is a book of the highest rank, both in scholarly and intellectual terms."
Reviews in Religion & Theology
"A clearly written, tightly argued constructive work of theological ethics which makes a genuine contribution to the natural law tradition, extending it in theologically fruitful ways."