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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 15, Issue 4, Winter 2015

Denis A. Scrandis
Pages 649-655

Maritain’s Theory of Natural Law

As moral standards, natural law and the notion of properly functioning human nature have persisted in Western cultures from the dawn of civilization. Medieval Christians developed it in their theologies. However, Enlightenment criticism of medieval thought undermined the credibility of natural law and its authority for modern man. Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) developed a rational foundation for natural law and sought to provide objectivity to natural law precepts. His theory also reestablishes the divine authority of natural law for a world without faith. Maritain locates the primary disclosure of natural law in the conscience’s moral reflection in a controversial act of pre-conceptual or non-conceptual knowledge called connatural knowledge.

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