Natural Law in One Stop

If I told you that someone had written a book that provided a concise one-stop shop summary of Aristotelian-Thomistic epistemology, philosophy of action, and natural law theory, and had integrated it with a theory of the virtues, you would—if you had any sense—rush to purchase such an indispensable volume. You would probably assume that it had been written by some eminent contemporary Roman Catholic philosopher or theologian—Jean Porter, perhaps, or a similar luminary in the field. If I told you further that this volume also integrated this account of natural law and virtue into an exposition of the Decalogue, you would probably just be confused; surely, that is asking too much of any one volume. If I went on to tell you that the book in question had been written by a Danish Lutheran crypto-Calvinist in the sixteenth century, you might think I was just pulling your leg.

But so it is. Thanks to the painstaking translation labors of Hillsdale classicist E. J. Hutchinson, Niels Hemmingsen has been retrieved from obscurity to speak afresh to the twenty-first century, and he is here to shatter all your paradigms. Defying the neat fashionable modern dichotomies of natural law ethics and virtue ethics, Catholic rationalism and Protestant voluntarism, and premodern vs. modern theories of natural law, Hemmingsen’s On the Law of Nature: A Demonstrative Method might seem to be a unique synthesis, a historical curiosity. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the book is how representative it is, as the top-notch introduction from Hutchinson and Korey D. Maas goes some way to demonstrating.

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