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Natural Law 'Externalism' v. Law as 'Moral Aspiration'

Patrick S. O'Donnell

April 7, 2011

In a recent paper discussing the novel contributions of Hegel to the philosophy of natural law, the moral and political philosopher Thom Brooks draws an "externalist/internalist" distinction for natural law theory. It is argued that Hegel gives us perhaps the first account of "natural law internalism," in contrast to the natural law tradition generally, which is best described as "externalist," meaning our metaphysical and moral assessment of the law invoke normative criteria and standards extrinsic to the law. In this essay I argue that this characterization or picture of the nature of law and its relation to our normative standards is misleading if not entirely mistaken. Rather, there are robust genetic family ties between our normative standards of law and justice or the Good such that it would be more accurate to speak of these criteria as intrinsic to the law qua law, as implicating the very marrow of the purposes and meaning we accord to law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 17

Keywords: natural law, law, Plato, Kant, Hegel, natural law internalism, natural law externalism, utopian constructions, moral principles

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Date posted: April 10, 2011 ; Last revised: April 21, 2011

Suggested Citation

O'Donnell, Patrick S., Natural Law 'Externalism' v. Law as 'Moral Aspiration' (April 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1804641 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1804641

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