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25 Law & Phil. 1 (2006)

handle is hein.journals/lwphil25 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Philosophy (2006) 25:1-29                © Springer 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10982-004-5055-2
(Accepted 17 September 2004)
There has been a rich debate in natural law theory about how exactly
human goods are connected to facts about human nature. Hittinger,
Veatch and McInerny, in various ways, make two central claims in
this regard: first, that in traditional natural law theory human goods
were firmly grounded in human nature, secondly, that the new nat-
ural law theory of Grisez, Finnis and Boyle bypasses the natural base.
New natural law, it is claimed, is essentially deontological, which, it
would appear, is a curious form for natural law, in particular, to take.
Robert George has defended new natural law from the deontology
charge and has succeeded in clarifying the role of nature therein.
George's claim is that critics fail to observe the distinction between
ontological and epistemic grounding in nature:
Neo-scholastic critics of the position Finnis defends have ignored the dis-
tinction between ontology and epistemology to which he appeals. They seem
to have assumed, gratuitously, that anyone who maintains that our knowl-
edge of human goods is not derived from our prior knowledge of human
nature must hold that human goods are not grounded in nature. The
assumption, however is unsound. There is not the slightest inconsistency in
holding that (1) our knowledge of the intrinsic value of certain ends or pur-
poses is acquired in non-inferential acts of understanding wherein we grasp
self-evident truths, and (2) those ends or purposes are intrinsically valuable
(and thus can be grasped as self-evidently worth while) because they are
intrinsically perfective of human beings, i.e., beings with a human nature.1
1 George, Robert, P., In Defense of Natural Law (Oxford: OUP, 2001),
p. 35.

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