For Students of Natural Law Theory – Dr. Dolhenty recommends


For those interested in a comprehensive study of Natural Law Theory, I recommend the following resources.


From one of the best known classical realists…

Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice

Can there be universal moral principles in a culturally and religiously diverse world? Are such principles provided by a theory of natural law? Maritain’s response to both questions is “yes.” These essays, selected from the writings of one of the most influential Classical Realistic philosophers of the past hundred years, provide a clear statement of Maritain’s theory of natural law and natural rights. Maritain’s ethics and political philosophy occupy a middle ground between the extremes of individualism and collectivism. Written during a period when cultural diversity and pluralism were beginning to have an impact on ethics and politics, these essays provide a defense of natural law and natural right that continues to be timely.

A sound defense of natural law theory…

Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law

A stimulating defense of natural law theory. This book expounds the work of the leading architects of natural law theory, including Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and John Locke. It also takes up contemporary philosophy, running against the tide of the pluralism that abhors natural law.

An easy format for everybody….

50 Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It

Probably one of the best books on natural law theory. The question and answer format is very well suited to the subject and Charles Rice asks all of the right questions to the point that you can anticipate them and the discussion flows smoothly. A very thorough, scholarly job.

Common truths for everyone…

Common Truths: New Perspectives on Natural Law

This book is a collection consisting of cogent remarks and prescient essays. Included are such essays as “Are There Moral Truths That Everyone Knows?,” by Ralph McInerny; “Aquinas, Natural Law, and the Challenges of Diversity,” by John Jenkins; “John Locke’s Reflections on Natural Law and the Character of the Modern World,” by Timothy Fuller; “Theories of Natural Law in the Culture of Advanced Modernity,” by Alasdair MacIntyre; “Natural Law and Sexual Ethics,” by Janet E. Smith; and “Natural Law in the Twenty-First Century,” by Charles E. Rice. This book is a scholarly, intellectually stimulating reading for anyone wanting to better understand and appreciate the permanent norms of human action and their relationships to a moral and political life.

In defense of natural law…

In his 1995 book, Making Men Moral, Robert P. George questioned the central doctrines of liberal jurisprudence and political theory. In his new work he extends his critique of liberalism, and also goes beyond it to show how contemporary natural law theory provides a superior way of thinking about basic problems of justice and political morality. Students as well as scholars in law, political science, and philosophy will find George’s arguments stimulating, challenging, and compelling.

What about natural rights?…

Natural Law and Natural Rights

This book confronts moral skepticism by using contemporary analytical tools to provide basic accounts of values and principles, community and “common good,” justice and human rights, authority, law, the varieties of obligation, unjust law, and the question of divine authority. Finnis deals with both classical accounts and modern critiques, developments in law, and arguments among contemporary political and legal theorists.

For the advanced reader…

Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies. This volume presents twelve original essays by leading natural law theorists and their critics. The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law. Readers get a clear sense of the wide diversity of viewpoints represented among contemporary theorists, and an opportunity to evaluate the arguments and counterarguments exchanged in the current debates between natural law theorists and their critics.

And, then, there is the public arena…

Natural Law and Public Reason

The best treatment of Thomistic ethics…

For those interested in Natural Law as it is dealt with in general ethics and moral philosophy, I highly recommend Right and Reason.

This is probably one of the best and most successful ethics book written to date. Widely used in colleges and universities, it is a clear and easy-to-read ethics textbook. Though issued in 1959, it remains remarkably contemporary and can be read even by those without a background in philosophy. Phrased in non-technical language, this work is a thoroughly competent book in the philosophy of ethics as viewed from the perspective of Classical Realism.

Dr. Adler’s approach to the subject…

The Time of Our Lives: The Ethics of Common Sense

Dr. Adler lays the groundwork for a common sense approach to the problem of making a good life and evaluating that life in reference to the merits of present society. He offers standards by which to judge the merits of our time against those of previous centuries and other cultures, and shows the ways in which a culture encourages or discourages the individual in his or her efforts to make a good life.