Volume 93, Issue 1, January 2016
John Finnis and Alasdair MacIntyre on Our Knowledge of the Precepts of Natural Law
Alasdair MacIntyre asks, if all individuals are in fact potential authorities of natural law and agree on its fundamentals, how can we explain manifest moral disagreement? Contemporary Thomistic natural law theorists have not attempted to address this particular issue to a significant degree. MacIntyre, taking this large-scale rejection seriously, focuses on the communal factors that allow individuals to recognize their need for and commitment to Thomistic natural law. By doing so, he attempts to give reasons for why we should expect natural law to be widely denied in contemporary society. In this paper, I argue that MacIntyre’s approach to natural law is capable of accounting for the seemingly paradoxical claim that these per se nota first principles of natural law might suffer apparent widespread rejection. Moreover, I will argue that MacIntyre’s account is also capable of explaining why we should actually expect such rejection to occur.