McCall, “The Architecture of Law”

“Does law belong to reason?…I answer that law is a rule and measure of acts that induces persons to act or to refrain from acting. For law (lex) is derived from binding (ligare) because law obliges persons to act. And the rule and measure of human acts is reason….For it belongs to reason to order us to our end….And so we conclude that law belongs to reason.”

So begins the part of the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas commonly called “The Treatise on Law” (ST I-II, Question 90), one of the great masterpieces of the philosophy ofArchitecture of Law law. And in this new book, The Architecture of Law: Rebuilding Law in the Classical Tradition (Notre Dame Press), Brian McCall intervenes in questions about the nature of law, drawing substantially from the natural law tradition of Aquinas.

What is law? How should law be made? Using St. Thomas Aquinas’s analogy of God as an architect, Brian McCall argues that classical natural law jurisprudence provides an answer to these questions far superior to those provided by legal positivism or the “new” natural law theories.

The Architecture of Law explores the metaphor of law as an architectural building project, with eternal law as the foundation, natural law as the frame, divine law as the guidance provided by the architect, and human law as the provider of the defining details and ornamentation. Classical jurisprudence is presented as a synthesis of the work of the greatest minds of antiquity and the medieval period, including Cicero, Aristotle, Gratian, Augustine, and Aquinas; the significant texts of each receive detailed exposition in these pages.

Along with McCall’s development of the architectural image, he raises a question that becomes a running theme throughout the book: To what extent does one need to know God to accept and understand natural law jurisprudence, given its foundational premise that all authority comes from God? The separation of the study of law from knowledge of theology and morality, McCall argues, only results in the impoverishment of our understanding of law. He concludes that they must be reunited in order for jurisprudence to flourish. This book will appeal to academics, students in law, philosophy, and theology, and to all those interested in legal or political philosophy.

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