Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 


Mission of the Natural Law Colloquium


The Fordham Natural Law Colloquium was inaugurated in the fall of 2000 through the efforts of Fordham alumnus Gene Harper and Fordham Philosophy Department Chair Dominic Balestra.  The Colloquium is jointly sponsored by the Law School and the Philosophy Department, and dedicated to encouraging reflection upon "natural law" reasoning in law, politics, and public discourse. The natural law tradition, derived from Aristotle and Aquinas, is an important part of the University's intellectual heritage, and has been central to Fordham's broader mission as a Jesuit institution of higher education.

Since the time of Aristotle and Aquinas, many philosophers, jurists, and judges have appealed to the notion of "natural law" in articulating their moral claims and visions of the public good and in defending their interpretations of the law. Common to all natural law thinking (whether ancient, medieval, or modern) is the commitment to the proposition that the nature and scope of legal obligations can be properly understood only within the context of a deeper examination of moral obligations and goodness. While unapologetic in its insistence on the essential connection between law and morality, the natural law tradition is remarkably rich and diverse in the forms it takes. Accordingly, the mission of the Colloquium is to foster critical thinking and collegial debate about the vast array of topics and issues that are relevant to, and that can be addressed through, a natural law perspective.

In accordance with its mission, the Colloquium aims to encourage thinking beyond the stale orthodoxies -- both rightist and leftist, traditionalist and progressive -- that can all too easily obscure the richness of the natural law tradition and its broad relevance for our contemporary situation. In addition to addressing some of the more common "natural law" topics (such as morals legislation and life-and-death issues), the Colloquium seeks to bring the natural law tradition to bear on a wide variety of other important issues such as: distributive justice, the common law, just war theory, criminality and punishment, privacy and civil liberties, judicial review, public reason, civil disobedience, emerging technologies, and international law. In short, the Colloquium provides a forum for debate on all issues in contemporary law and politics, in light of the natural law tradition.

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