Foreword to 'By Nature Equal? The Anatomy of a Western Insight'
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
John E. Coons and Patrick Brennan, BY NATURE EQUAL? THE ANATOMY OF A WESTERN INSIGHT, Princeton University Press, 1999
Professors Coons and Brennan offer a "realist" theory of human equality. They first distill a "conventional" definition of human equality - combining the conversational method of "common sense" philosophy with the law professor's method of constructing a "reasonable person standard." They then move with acuity and alacrity down the long honor roll of Western philosophers, theologians, and natural law theorists in search of antecedents and allies for their theory. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Kant, and a host of others are all put in the dock for close examination of their theories of equality. Coons and Brennan let these historical luminaries speak on their terms, sometimes at length. They do not coach their historical witnesses to use language or to reach conclusions that suits the thesis of their book. Virtually all these luminaries give credible testimony to support portions of the authors' thesis. But none expounds it outright. The authors then stitch together the testimony they have gathered from the tradition and restate their thesis about human equality. The last section of the volume sketches the pertinence of the thesis for contemporary discussions of liberty, equality, and fraternity, justice, rights, and the common good.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 7
Keywords: Human equality, Coons, Brennan
Date posted: August 7, 2011
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