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v2.1 Reference

Natural Law Ethics in Theory and Practice

A Joseph Boyle Reader

Natural Law Ethics in Theory and Practice brings together a selection of essays of the late Joseph Boyle. Boyle was, with Germain Grisez and John Finnis, a founder and developer of the New Classical Natural Law Theory, arguably the most important development in Catholic moral philosophy of the twentieth century. While this theory is indebted to the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, it incorporates an understanding and assessment of that work that is different from that found in other statements of natural law. Boyle made crucial contributions to a wide variety of aspects of this theory, and the volume is divided into two parts.

Part One: Articulating a Theory of Natural Law contains three sections in which Boyle defends the reality of free choice and the view that the basic reasons for action, or first principles of natural law, are incommensurable in goodness. Boyle identifies the basic moral standard for choice and action, and develops an account of human action that elucidates the important role played by intention and double effect in their moral evaluation.

The essays in Part Two: Natural Law Theory and Contemporary Moral Problems demonstrate the strength and scope of Boyle's natural law account, as he brings it to bear upon just war theory, property and welfare rights, and issues in bioethics. The essays in bioethics address the difficult question of whether it is appropriate to tube-feed patients in persistent vegetative state, and include an unpublished essay, "Against Assisted Death," which he delivered as the Anscombe Lecture at The Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford about a year before he died.

This volume also includes a Foreword by Princeton's Robert P. George; an Introduction by the editors that highlights Boyle's contribution to the development of the new classical natural law theory; and a bibliography of Boyle's publications.

About the Authors

Joseph Boyle (1942-2016) was professor emeritus of philosophy at St Michael's College of the University of Toronto. John Liptay is associate professor of philosophy, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan. Christopher Tollefsen is professor of philosophy, University of South Carolina. Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program of American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Reviews

"This is an excellent anthology, a very good selection of significant works by Joseph Boyle, plus a very insightful introduction which shows the importance of Boyle's work."—Patrick Lee, Franciscan University of Steubenville

"When Joseph Boyle died in September of 2016 he left behind a body of published work that ranked him among the most important Catholic philosophers of the last half-century. He is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Germain Grisez and John Finnis; together these three men articulated and developed a framework of moral evaluation so creative and formidable that it has been received—quite rightly—as a novel theory. Boyle's scholarship ranged widely, however, across the whole of moral philosophy and even into the metaphysical prolegomena to ethics. In some of his most important essays Boyle defends the reality of morally significant free choice, chiefly against its determinist doubters. Included, too, are some of Boyle's significant papers in applied ethics in which he tries to answer hard questions about the morality of the nuclear deterrent and the justice of private property holdings."—Gerard V. Bradley, University of Notre Dame

"These papers bear eloquent witness to the rigor and fertility of Joseph Boyle's mind, one of the most incisive and systematic intellects in recent moral philosophy. To read the essays together, as they are gathered here, puts one at the center of many of the most important discussions in contemporary ethics especially for the development of natural law thinking. No one concerned with these questions can neglect them, and all will find illumination in this invaluable collection."—V. Bradley Lewis, The Catholic University of America

"I met Joseph Boyle in the summer of 1974. We were attending a six- week seminar focused on medical ethics. Joe was then very concerned (as he was, for most of his life) with issues that are part of understanding the Doctrine of Double Effect. These issues include ones in the philosophical theory of human action such as the individuation of human action, the theory of responsibility, the proper account of intention, and other important philosophical issues. When you read this book, you will find Joe as interesting as I did nearly fifty years ago."—Don Marquis, University of Kansas

"This collection of rigorously argued essays is more than just another contribution to the tradition of moral reflection known as natural law. Boyle draws out the implications of the truth that free choices are creative and irreducible, thus constituting 'a domain of reality that is sui generis' and susceptible of analysis only from the perspective of the acting person. Thereby he succeeds in illuminating natural law theory and its practical application as few others have done. Although written over decades as free-standing pieces, these essays offer a compelling systematic treatment of Boyle's ethical theory."—Peter F. Ryan, SJ, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

The Catholic University of America Press

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