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Question for Greg
A question for Greg, prompted by his characteristically thoughtful and eloquent post on land-use, suburbs, cities, preferences, etc. . . . I assume he would not accept the following claim, propounded by my friend and Notre Dame colleague, Philip Bess:
The Aristotelian-Thomist intellectual tradition’s understanding of natural law---which is the broad pre-modern tradition of western culture---is that there are certain foundational principles of morality that are (according to Thomas Aquinas) “the same for all, both as to knowledge and to rectitude”---in other words, principles of morality that are not only right for all human beings but knowable (and at some level known) to all human beings. These foundational principles of morality, along with their first few rings of implications, are known as the natural law.
The Urban Transect refers to that range of human habitats conducive to human flourishing within which human settlements are part of a sustainable (albeit not necessarily locally bio-diverse) eco-system. These habitats, diagrammatically depicted as Transect-zones (“Tzones”), range from less dense human settlements to more dense human settlements; but each urban T-zone denotes a walkable and mixed-use human environment wherein within each urban zone many if not most of the necessities and activities of daily life are within a five-to-ten-minute walk for persons of all ages and economic classes.
It is the thesis of this paper that, given this understanding and characterization of both natural law and the Urban Transect, the proposition “Human beings should make settlements in accordance with the Urban Transect” is generally valid for all human beings in all times and places---and therefore constitutes a natural law precept. If this is true, such a precept would be binding in conscience for---and acted upon with prudential judgment by---all persons who act in accordance with right (practical) reason; and especially for and by persons who understand themselves to be a part of the Aristotelian-Thomist intellectual tradition.
So . . . Greg, do you think Prof. Bess is wrong? Where has he gone wrong?
From Mirror of Justice posted 2008-01-01.