From Human Dignity to Natural Law shows how the whole of the natural law, as understood in the Aristotelian Thomistic tradition, is contained implicitly in human dignity. Human dignity means existing for one’s own good (the common good as well as one’s individual good), and not as a mere means to an alien good. But what is the true human good? This question is answered with a careful analysis of Aristotle’s definition of happiness. The natural law can then be understood as the precepts that guide us in achieving happiness.
To show that human dignity is a reality in the nature of things and not a mere human invention, it is necessary to show that human beings exist by nature for the achievement of the properly human good in which happiness is found. This implies finality in nature. Since contemporary natural science does not recognize final causality, the book explains why living things, as least, must exist for a purpose and why the scientific method, as currently understood, is not able to deal with this question. These reflections will also enable us to respond to a common criticism of natural law theory: that it attempts to derive statements of what ought to be from statements about what is.
After defining the natural law and relating it to human or positive law, Richard Berquist considers Aquinas’s formulation of the first principle of the natural law. It then discusses the love commandments to love God above all things and to love one’s neighbor as oneself as the first precepts of the natural law. Subsequent chapters are devoted to clarifying and defending natural law precepts concerned with the life issues, with sexual morality and marriage, and with fundamental natural rights. From Human Dignity to Natural Law concludes with a discussion of alternatives to the natural law.
"There is a need for a book like this because much of what is now being published on the natural law deals with particular debates within natural law ethics and is intended primarily for academic audiences. Berquist writes for the non-specialist and provides a crystal clear and concise overview of Thomistic natural law, along with a sense of how the natural law can be applied to perennial and contemporary issues in applied ethics. He writes beautifully, with exemplary philosophical prose."~Paul Kucharski, Manhattanville College
"How timely a book! Richard Berquist guides his reader through the implications of the dignity of the human person to discover the fullness of the natural law. Written with characteristic lucidity, this book can richly inform the thinking of any thoughtful reader."~John F. Boyle, University of St. Thomas, Minn.
"There is no other volume which lays out natural law theory from its foundations to its many applications to ethics without being burdened with jargon, controversy or intramural debate...Anyone interested in the natural law, even those already schooled in its tenets, will not fail to benefit from this book. The clarity with which it addresses some of the most profound matters of philosophy is remarkable, and, for an introduction, its breadth is impressive. There is probably no better introduction to natural law than this."~The New Bioethics
"Berquist modestly writes that there is little new in this book. Yet his concise review of the basic principles underlying the Catholic moral tradition, and his compelling application to a broad range of contemporary moral controversies, is enlightening for anyone wanting an introduction to the natural law. It is, in particular, a fine classroom resource for generating intelligent reflections on contemporary morality and public policy."~American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly