The Principles of Natural Law Never Change

Here are only some of the erudite comments from an article (cited below) in The American Conservative.

  1. Leon Berton, on March 10th, 2012 at 6:56 am Said:

    There are some very insightful, provocative musings here (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/how-to-read-the-constitution/) . So, please forgive my elementary remarks.

    First, I don’t see how one can contend that the author(s) of a text did not have an essential or core intention that was meant (assuming the articulation was coherent and grounded in accessible experience, which the Constitution, original Amendments and Declaration were, and are). While each generation always approaches the text with its own questions and concerns, there is nothing to preclude comprehending what was originally meant, along with the suppositions and referents of the authors, including the complex context from which the text arose.

    Even though their original intention was that subsequent generations might amend that intention by “addition” of refinements or precisions, it is apparent they could not have intended these to in any way “subtract” from what had been forged, articulated and assented to concerning severely limiting the defined functions of the central government. Otherwise, their very exercise of the enterprise would have been one of futility and contradiction.

    Second, once assented to, formally by those present, and in varying ways, even only tacitly by others, a distinct “nation(ality)” was constituted, at once universalist in its assimilative character but unique in the dynamic unity it would realize. One of its unique traits was, in principle, to prevent identification of nation with ethnicity or race (or confessionality), thus laying the basis for expansive inclusion. Hence, the complementary, yet distinct emphases of the Constitution and Declaration inevitably implied slavery as baseless, as well as not permitting women a voice in matters concerning the polity.

    Even taking into account the many contingencies that pervade the motives and concerns of author(s) and the context of their act(s), it seems to me that these are two enduringly notable features of what the Founders achieved, even though multitudes of other things could be remarked as well.

  2. Stephen, on March 11th, 2012 at 5:18 am Said:

    To: reflection ephemeral indeed (another commentator), The original intent of the framers was to bind…across time, man.

  3. Judge Bartley, on March 11th, 2012 at 7:58 am Said: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Leon wrote:

    “Even though their original intention was that subsequent generations might amend that intention by “addition” of refinements or precisions, it is apparent they could not have intended these to in any way “subtract” from what had been forged, articulated and assented to concerning severely limiting the defined functions of the central government. Otherwise, their very exercise of the enterprise would have been one of futility and contradiction.”

    Your remark reminds me of Aquinas’s discussion of Natural Law, where he says it is unchangeable in the sense that nothing can be subtracted from it in its first principles, though human law refinements to implement it are permissible.

    I-II Q. 94:5 “Whether the natural law can be changed?

    On the contrary, It is said in the Decretals (Dist. v): “The natural law dates from the creation of the rational creature. It does not vary according to time, but remains unchangeable.

    I answer that, A change in the natural law may be understood in two ways. First, by way of addition. In this sense nothing hinders the natural law from being changed: since many things for the benefit of human life have been added over and above the natural law, both by the Divine law and by human laws.

    Secondly, a change in the natural law may be understood by way of subtraction, so that what previously was according to the natural law, ceases to be so. In this sense, the natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles: but in its secondary principles, which, as we have said (4), are certain detailed proximate conclusions drawn from the first principles, the natural law is not changed so that what it prescribes be not right in most cases. But it may be changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence, through some special causes hindering the observance of such precepts, as stated above (Article 4). ( From http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2094.htm#article5)

    Your statement is “elementary” indeed, but elementary is good– as Holmes always reminds Watson! Congratulations, Leon & Stephen, and all the others who contributed to the article.

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Published in: on March 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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