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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 24, 2019

James Berquist
Pages 149-161
DOI: 10.5840/cssr20192431

The Universal Good and the Hierarchy of Goods in the Natural Law

The New Natural Law (NNL) tradition holds that ‘good’ in the first precept of natural law—Good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided—is an indeterminate good, and that it is universal precisely because it is indeterminate in its account. Based upon this, they further argue that there is no hierarchy amongst per se goods. Following Thomas Aquinas’s work on natural law and the good, I argue that the first good of practical reason is God himself, and that there is a hierarchy of per se goods from the perspective of practical reason. The central distinction I make is that the NNL tradition’s ‘good’ is only universal in its predication, whereas the good that moves practical reason has to have causal universality.

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