Natural Reason and Natural Law
An Assessment of the Straussian Criticisms of Thomas Aquinas
Imprint: Resource Publications
“Leo Strauss and his followers criticize Aquinas’s doctrine of natural law. They claim it depends on a revealed theology or a discredited science. James Carey offers a thoughtful response, showing that these critics get Aquinas wrong and do not adequately explain what they themselves mean by reason and nature. Carey executes his polemic with skill and verve, while offering insightful reflections of his own.”
—Kevin White, Associate Professor, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America
“In Natural Reason and Natural Law, James Carey not only adeptly addresses Straussian criticisms of Aquinas’s natural law teaching, but also offers a robust and timely philosophical defense of the rational foundations of ethics. This book deserves a careful reading by Thomists, Straussians, and anyone interested in exploring the viability and enduring contribution of the natural law tradition in ethics.”
—Paul Macdonald, Department of Philosophy, United States Air Force Academy
James Carey’s Natural Reason and Natural Law provides a much-needed assessment of and response to Straussian criticisms leveled against the Thomistic treatment of natural law by Thomas Aquinas. The direct focus of the work is an assessment of the criticisms stemming from Leo Strauss and his school. But the horizon of discussion is both broader and deeper: What is reason? What is obligation? Carey attempts to extend the horizon beyond the intramural disputes among Kantians, Thomists, or Straussians to address these questions important to all thoughtful human beings. To be sure, Carey is well-grounded in the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on its own terms. This provides him a vantage point from which to provide a well-informed and searching examination of a major issue in political philosophy with some of the most intellectually serious contemporary political philosophers.
Carey’s book is divided into three main parts: the teleology of natural reason, the Straussian criticisms, and a part called “Beyond Natural Law,” discussing aberrations, philosophizing in the shadow of Heidegger, a revalidation of natural teleology, and some objections and replies. The central discussion engages Leo Strauss himself and three major students: Harry Jaffa, Ernest Fortin, and Michael Zuckert. This closely argued philosophical tour de force deserves careful study and review in professional journals. It will raise the level of conversation amongst philosophers and theologians.
E. M. Macierowski, Professor of Philosophy, Benedictine College