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60 Am. J. Juris. 199 (2015)


Of the published reviews of Natural Law and Natural Rights, one of the most, and most enduringly, influential was Ernest Fortin's review-article "The New Rights Theory and the Natural Law" (1982). The present essay takes the occasion of that review's latest republication to respond to its main criticisms of the theory of natural law and natural or human rights that is articulated in Natural Law and Natural Rights. The response deals with a number of fundamental or strategically important issues: the freedom of thought and/or the intellectual autonomy and integrity of work within an intellectual tradition that overlaps with a "faith tradition"; the hierarchies among the basic human goods; the place of virtue in the book, and the relation between rights and freedom, and rights and virtue; the unsoundness of the Straussian bifurcation between natural right and natural rights; whether natural law is only analogically law, and the relation between moral law and sanctions; and the possibility of true exceptionless negative moral precepts.