Natural law and normative inclinations

Jonathan Crowe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Natural law ethics holds that practical rationality consists in engaging in non-defective ways with a range of fundamental goods. These basic goods are characteristically presented as reflecting the natural properties of humans, but the details of this picture vary widely. This article argues that natural law ethics can usefully be understood as a type of dispositional theory of value, which identifies the basic goods with those objectives that humans are characteristically disposed to pursue and value for their own sake. Natural law theories of practical rationality can then be understood as attempts to capture the principles that would govern engagement with the basic goods under ideal conditions. The article begins by offering an account of normative inclinations as human dispositions both to act in certain ways and to believe that the actions are worthwhile or required. It then explores the implications of this account for natural law ethics, discussing the role of the basic goods in practical rationality, whether the goods may change over time and the connection between the goods and human nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-67
Number of pages16
JournalRatio Juris
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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