Fabrice P. Beland

Some Remarks on the Notion of "Natural Law" in Cicero's Laws
By Fabrice P. Beland on December 17, 2010

From Plato and Aristotle to Cicero, we observe a radical change in the understanding of classical natural right. By contrast to his two predecessors, Cicero doesn’t seem to harbor any doubt about the salutary character of some philosophical doctrine of natural right for the political community. In his dialogue The Laws, we see Cicero having recourse to the notion of a rational or natural law to defend and justify his own slightly improved version of the ancient Roman Republic’s legal code. Since the notion of a “natural law” also appears in Cicero’s Republic(cf. I.17 and 3.22), Cicero has often been considered as one of the first thurifers of this controversial notion. In this paper, we focus exclusively on Cicero’s presentation of the natural law in his dialogue The Laws. After replacing Cicero’s treatment of the natural law in its specific context, we argue that in his Laws, Cicero’s defends two different notions of the natural law: 1) the natural law strictly speaking which is the preserve of the wise man, a law whose only command is that the wise man should rule over the unwise; 2) the natural law understood as the theoretical support of the gentleman’s moral decency. In this last sense, the natural law is disconnected from any real knowledge of the whole, and becomes as a consequence a very problematic concept. 


The Enigma of Modern Science
By Fabrice Béland on July 05, 2010

On Modern Origins. Essays in Early Modern Philosophy is a posthumous work that gathers fourteen articles and one letter written by the professor Richard Kennington from 1968 to 1998. Not having published in his lifetime any book, Richard Kennington remains today little known among specialists as well as among amateurs of philosophy. This relative anonymity makes necessary without a doubt a few brief biographical remarks. Richard Kennington was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1921. He was studying economics at Berkley when his academic career was interrupted by the Second World War, in which he took part (he fought at the battle of Okinawa). After the war, and up until 1951, Richard Kennington studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research. There, he attended the seminars of Hans Jonas and Kurt Riezler, but he was most notably influenced by the thought of Leo Strauss (Kennington rented for almost two years an apartment at the house of Leo Strauss himself). After his studies at the New School, Kennington capped off his education at the Committee on Social Thought and at the Sorbonne. Beginning in 1960, Kennington taught philosophy at the University of Penn State. In 1975, he was named professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

If, as we have said, professor Kennington did not published any book himself, it certainly is not, as we can easily see from On Modern Origins, because he had not developed several magisterial interpretations of works of majors modern philosophers. But, even if Kennington is a specialist of seventeenth century continental philosophy, he is at the same time and above all a philosopher himself. His decision to undertake a historical and philosophical inquiry concerning the very first origins of modern philosophy and science is justified in his eyes by his diagnosis of a crisis of modern reason. The principal symptom of this crisis is the following: modern scientific and philosophic reason proves itself to be in the end incapable of saying anything objectively valid in relation to what it is forced to call its own “value”.

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