Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(3) August 2021

Book Review

The Light That Binds.
A Study in Thomas Aquinas's Metaphysics of Natural Law
by Stephen L. Brock 101532647301

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Book CoverIn this splendid work, the author examines Aquinas's teaching of the relationship between natural law and God's eternal law. The author clearly demonstrates that the natural law is indeed a law. From this is developed a series of reflections including the binding force of natural law and its relationship with God and to our own natural inclinations. These reflections are very relevant to our daily work and lives. The author is thus a follower of the traditional approach to natural law theory, a theory solidly grounded in metaphysics.
Other positions in natural law are discussed. For John Finnis, natural law can be called "law" only because of a certain resemblance to human positive law. Another position asserts that natural law is natural only in a qualified sense: no one is subject to a law until he knows it is a law. Yet another school of thought argues that natural law can be understood without reference to the eternal law.
I was pleased to see the great modern philosopher Peter Geach mentioned. Geach asks the question: are the things that God commands morally obligatory because God commands them or does God command them because they are morally obligatory? Geach argues for the former: God's commands generate moral obligations.
The author also looks at a famous article that Elizabeth Anscombe wrote on moral philosophy. In it, she argues that the term "ought" is simply meaningless outside of the perspective of an ethics based on divine law. Those who reject an ethics based on divine law ought to reject terms such as "illicit, prohibited and morally wrong." Anscombe is therefore in agreement with Geach that divine law generates moral obligations.
I found this to be a work of great scholarship, difficult in parts for the interested non-specialist but rewarding.