© 2010

Narrative, Nature, and the Natural Law

From Aquinas to International Human Rights


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. C. Fred Alford
    Pages 1-20
  3. C. Fred Alford
    Pages 49-81
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 149-176

About this book


Beginning with Saint Thomas Aquinas and ending with the latest developments in international human rights, 'Narrative, Nature, and the Natural Law: From Aquinas to International Human Rights,' brings a fairly traditional interpretation of the natural law to some rather untraditional problems and areas, including evolutionary natural law.


human rights John Locke law natural law

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Yarmouth PortUSA

About the authors

C. FRED ALFORD is Professor of Government and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 

Bibliographic information


"A fresh and thoughtful exploration of the concept of human rights in light of natural law theory. Using the UN Declaration of 1948 as a baseline, Alford shows why human rights are a vitally important dimension of twentieth century political thinking. He makes a deft and probing use of Jacques Maritain s approach to natural law through connaturality and argues that such an approach is superior to the alternatives found in the new natural law thinking or biological approaches to morality. He confronts the challenge posed to natural law thinking by the evil of genocide and the Holocaust. In this book we find a very fruitful comparison and interaction between various and diverse currents of thinking about politics, morality, and rights - in addition to Maritain and his critics, classic sources such as Aristotle, Plato, and Aquinas, Alford explores the thought of Arendt, Ignatieff, Freud, Nussbaum, MacIntyre, and others. This book is an insightful and thought provoking look at natural law and challenges of political thinking today." - John P. Hittinger, Professor of Philosophy, Center for Thomistic Studies, University of St Thomas, Houston, Texas

"As claims to human rights today are transformed by legislatures into positive law,we easily forget their moral origins in natural law.C. Fred Alford reminds us of thispedigree employing theappealing teaching virtues of accessible narrative, engaging style and compelling analysis." - Richard Pierre Claude,Senior Research Fellow, Human Rights Center,University of California,Berkeley, and Founding Editor, Human Rights Quarterly

"C. Fred Alford reads a distinctive canon (Aquinas, Locke, Maritain, Arendt, and others) with great sensitivity, enriched by his experience of interviewing ordinary people, teaching, and working in civic organizations. He develops a striking synthesis of narrative ethics and natural law. Alford argues that justice is real but that we know it through stories, not with what is narrowly called "reason." This engaging and accessible book has profound implications for how we should think and act." - Peter Levine, Director of Research, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University

"Alford transforms the idea of natural law, broadening both its application and appeal for new audiences and for the most pressing issues of our day. A brilliant thesis, it both endorses and challenges the natural law tradition for contemporary scholarship." - Stephen F. Schneck, Department of Politics, The Catholic University of America