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Natural Law, Laws of Nature, Natural Rights: Continuity and Discontinuity in the History of Ideas Hardcover – September 22, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0826417657 ISBN-10: 0826417655

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Oakley is a scholar's scholar and his book is a gem. This profoundly learned and engaging work takes aim at the controversial American theorist Leo Strauss. He examines the dialectical interplay, over two millennia, between antipodal views of natural law: in the intellectualist view, natural law is immanent in the structure of reality and therefore immutable, while in the voluntaristic or covenantal view, it is imposed on the universe from without and therefore changeable." —CHOICE, July 2006

"This small, but soon to be a classic book is of equal challenge to students of natural law and human rights. In this text and endnotes Oakley critically engages, among others, Strauss, Haakonssen, Tuck, and Shapiro."- Walter J. Kendall III, The Law and Politics Book Review, September 2006

"This excellent book provides a sophisticated but accessible introduction to some fundamental problems in the history of natural law thinking, and the writing throughout is elegant, lucid and persuasive." -Brian Tierney, Catholic Historical Review, 2007 (The Catholic Historical Review)

Choice Outstanding Academic Title.


"This book consist of the revised text of the 2001 Curti Lectures in Intellectual History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison...Oakley's overall case for the intimate interconnections between moral and scientific thought is cogent and illuminating. By the same token, he amply demonstrates the possibilities and power of a certain kind of intellectual history. May we see many more books like this one." —Jean Porter, The Journal of Religion, Oct. 2007, Vol. 87, No. 4
(Jean Porter)

"...while Oakley-the-historian feels he should leave Speculation behind in favour of Scholarship, Oakley-the-philosopher is repeatedly drawn back to Speculation and a discussion of why these ideas appeared in the Middle Ages, and it is when he allows himself this guilty pleasure that Oakley's short book is at its most compelling." —Paul Teel, Philosophy in Review

"The argument itself is open to at least three criticisms. First, while Oakley argues that the developments concerning the physical laws of nature led the way for developments in the other two realms, he ends his book with a chapter that traces the origins of natural rights back to the twelfth century, two centuries earlier than the important events in his account of the evolution of the physical laws of nature. Oakley could explain this, I believe, but he does not; it is an obvious question left unanswered. Second, Oakley's Speculative argument is nearly identical to one Michael Foster made in the mid-1930's in the journal Mind, but Oakley—who is aware of Foster's work and has written of it elsewhere—only mentions Foster briefly in the epilogue and an endnote, with no description of Foster's argument. In a book on the history of ideas, this is a surprising omission. Third, although Oakley announces at the book's beginning that he intends to move from Speculation to Scholarship, he in fact fails to make that move decisively..."-Paul Teel, Philosophy in Review (Negative)

" This short book is meaty, but offers a relevant critique of the rise of the modern views of ethics. It suggests that modernity is not anti-medieval, but an extension of a certain form of medievalism, Nominalism. While there is no direct correlate between his thesis and ministry, Oakley offers an important theory about how we are to understand the context in which we do our ministries." — Mark C. Mattes, Grand View College, Currents in Theology and Mission (Mark C. Mattes, Grand View College Currents In Theology and Mission)

“Oakley is a scholar’s scholar and his book is a gem. This profoundly learned and engaging work takes aim at the controversial American theorist Leo Strauss. He examines the dialectical interplay, over two millennia, between antipodal views of natural law: in the intellectualist view, natural law is immanent in the structure of reality and therefore immutable, while in the voluntaristic or covenantal view, it is imposed on the universe from without and therefore changeable.” –CHOICE, July 2006

"This small, but soon to be a classic book is of equal challenge to students of natural law and human rights. In this text and endnotes Oakley critically engages, among others, Strauss, Haakonssen, Tuck, and Shapiro.”- Walter J. Kendall III, The Law and Politics Book Review, September 2006

“This excellent book provides a sophisticated but accessible introduction to some fundamental problems in the history of natural law thinking, and the writing throughout is elegant, lucid and persuasive.” -Brian Tierney, Catholic Historical Review, 2007 (Sanford Lakoff)

"This book consist of the revised text of the 2001 Curti Lectures in Intellectual History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison…Oakley's overall case for the intimate interconnections between moral and scientific thought is cogent and illuminating. By the same token, he amply demonstrates the possibilities and power of a certain kind of intellectual history. May we see many more books like this one." —Jean Porter, The Journal of Religion, Oct. 2007, Vol. 87, No. 4
(Sanford Lakoff)

"...while Oakley-the-historian feels he should leave Speculation behind in favour of Scholarship, Oakley-the-philosopher is repeatedly drawn back to Speculation and a discussion of why these ideas appeared in the Middle Ages, and it is when he allows himself this guilty pleasure that Oakley’s short book is at its most compelling.” –Paul Teel, Philosophy in Review

“The argument itself is open to at least three criticisms. First, while Oakley argues that the developments concerning the physical laws of nature led the way for developments in the other two realms, he ends his book with a chapter that traces the origins of natural rights back to the twelfth century, two centuries earlier than the important events in his account of the evolution of the physical laws of nature. Oakley could explain this, I believe, but he does not; it is an obvious question left unanswered. Second, Oakley’s Speculative argument is nearly identical to one Michael Foster made in the mid-1930’s in the journal Mind, but Oakley—who is aware of Foster’s work and has written of it elsewhere—only mentions Foster briefly in the epilogue and an endnote, with no description of Foster’s argument. In a book on the history of ideas, this is a surprising omission. Third, although Oakley announces at the book’s beginning that he intends to move from Speculation to Scholarship, he in fact fails to make that move decisively…"-Paul Teel, Philosophy in Review (Sanford Lakoff)

" This short book is meaty, but offers a relevant critique of the rise of the modern views of ethics. It suggests that modernity is not anti-medieval, but an extension of a certain form of medievalism, Nominalism. While there is no direct correlate between his thesis and ministry, Oakley offers an important theory about how we are to understand the context in which we do our ministries." — Mark C. Mattes, Grand View College, Currents in Theology and Mission (Sanford Lakoff Currents In Theology and Mission)

About the Author

Francis Oakely is Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas Emeritus at Williams College and President Emeritus of the College. He is also President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies. He has held appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, at the National Humanities Center, and at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. During the 1900-2000 academic year, he was the Sir Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professor in the History of Ideas at Oxford University. In 200l he gave the Merle Curti Lectures in intellectual history at the University of Wisconsin/Madison, and in 2002 the Gilson Lecture at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto. His most recent book, The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church, 1300-1870 (Oxford UP, 2003) won the Roland H. Bainton History Prize of the Sixteenth-Century Society. Among his other books are Omnipotence, Covenant, and Order, Politics and Eternity, and The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages

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