Some Observations on Natural Law

Michael Pakaluk

About author

Michael Pakaluk, PhD
Ave Maria University
Department of Philosophy
Ave Maria, FL 34142 USA


The paper offers some observations with a view to correcting ostensible misunderstandings of the so-called New Natural Law (“NNL”) theory, concluding that the NNL theory is unworkable and unsustainable, even on its own terms. It is argued that the NNL theory is based on fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of necessity in Aquinas; the nature of propositions which are “known in themselves” (per se nota); and the nature of fundamental practical reasoning. It is argued that, where the NNL theory differs from that of Aquinas, the latter provides a better framework for the development of accounts of natural law today.

Full Text:



  1. Aristotle, De Anima, trans. J.A. Smith, available at
  2. Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, available at
  3. Finnis John, Is and Ought in Aquinas, [in:] Reason in Action: Collected Essays, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2011.
  4. Finnis John, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Second Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford 2011.
  5. George Robert, In Defense of Natural Law, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1999.
  6. George Robert, Recent Criticisms of Natural Law Theory, [in:] In Defense of Natural Law, Clarendon Press, 1999.
  7. Hooker Richard, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, available at
  8. Lichacz Piotr, OP, Did Aquinas Justify the Transition from “Is” to “Ought”?, Instytut Tomistyczny, Warszawa 2010.
  9. Quine Williard Van Orman, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” The Philosophical Review (60) 1951.
  10. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, available at
  11. Veatch Henry, “Natural Law and the ‘Is’ – ‘Ought’ Question,” Catholic Lawyer (26) 1981.


Article links:

Default URL:
English abstract URL:


All works are licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License.