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13 - Poverty and Natural Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

William A. Galston
Affiliation:
Brookings Institution, Washington DC
Peter H. Hoffenberg
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii, Manoa
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Summary

Natural law ethics as developed by Thomas Aquinas (1225–74 ce) and his heirs constitutes a vital intellectual tradition. The interpretation of this ethic has gone through many stages and variations over the course of the past eight hundred years. Just as the nature of poverty changed significantly from the medieval to the modern and contemporary periods, so also has natural law reflection on poverty. This chapter begins with an exposition of the basic lines of Thomas Aquinas’s natural law ethic, particularly as it was applied to poverty; provides a brief explication of one of this tradition’s most important early modern advocates, Bartolomé de Las Casas, O.P., the sixteenth-century “Defender of the Indians”; and examines the work of John Finnis, one of the founders of the “new natural law theory,” and the use of his theory by a development economist, Sabina Alkire. Finally, these three descriptive sections are followed by an account of the relevance of natural law ethics for the issue of poverty today.

It should be understood that a single chapter can only briefly treat authors who deserve much more extensive examination than is possible here. This chapter attempts to show that the natural law tradition provides significant grounds for promoting justice for the poor as a matter of human rights and the common good, and that justice at its core aims at empowering the poor to act as agents of their own lives.

Type
Chapter
Information
Poverty and Morality
Religious and Secular Perspectives
, pp. 265 - 284
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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References

Casas, Bartolomé de lasObras completasMadridAlianza Editorial 1989Google Scholar
Indian Freedom: The Cause of Bartolomé de las Casas, 1484–1566: A ReaderFrancis Patrick Sullivan, S.J.Kansas CitySheed and Ward 1995
A Short Account of the Destruction of the IndiesGriffin, NigelNew YorkPenguin 1992Google Scholar
In Defense of the IndiansStafford Poole, C. M.DeKalbNorthern Illinois University Press 1992Google Scholar
Tierney, BrianThe Idea of Natural RightsIthaca, NYCornell University Press 1997Google Scholar
Fortin, ErnestOn The Presumed Medieval Origin of Individual RightsCommunio 26 1999 55Google Scholar
Simpson, L. B.The Encomienda in New Spain: The Beginning of Spanish MexicoBerkeleyUniversity of California Press 1966Google Scholar
Hanke, Lewis UlyssesAristotle and the American IndiansBloomingtonIndiana University Press 1970Google Scholar
Pagden, AnthonyThe Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative EthnologyCambridgeCambridge University Press 1982Google Scholar
Grisez, GermainThe Way of the Lord JesusChicagoFranciscan Herald Press 1983Google Scholar
George, Robert P.Natural Law Theory: Contemporary EssaysNew YorkOxford University Press 1994

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