Monday, May 21, 2007

Suggestions for Law-School Students

Dear Mr. Romero,

Hail Mary, full of grace! I’m a law student from Brazil doing law studies in the US. Could you please indicate to me a very good book on Catholic philosophy (starting from the basics)? I’ve browsed Maritain’s Introduction to Philosophy, which is certainly better than the so-called-Catholic philosophers of today. But I wanted to read something more comprehensive and use it as a weapon against Kant and modern philosophy which permeates contemporaneous legal thought. Also, do you know a good book on Law from the true (Catholic) standpoint? A book that discusses justice, what the law should be, obedience, natural law, principles of law, etc. I was looking for a book that discusses (and dismisses) modern legal systems.

Thank you for your help,

Dear Alexandre,

I would recommend you begin with a solid, in-depth introduction to scholastic philosophy. Dr. D.Q. McInerny has a very friendly, introductory-level set of volumes on Scholastic Philosophy. He has written one volume for each of the main "branches" of philosophy:

1) Logic,
2) Natural Philosophy,
3) Philosophical Psychology,
4) Ethics,
5) Metaphysics,
6) Epistemology, and
7) Natural Theology.

You can obtain these through Fraternity Publications (note that there are more volumes than those advertized in the site; I suggest you contact the Fraternity directly, using the contact info provided in the site).

For law, properly speaking, the starting point is Aquinas' Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, qq. 90ff. If you are interested in a more detailed treatise on the philosophy of law from a traditional scholastic perspective, I would find one of those classic Latin manuals published before Vatican II on the philosophy of law. For example: Bender, Ludovicus. Philosophia iuris. Romae: Catholic Book Agency, 1947. I have one such work, in two volumes. If you have trouble finding this or something similar, let me know. I can scan the one I have into a PDF file and mail you a CD with it (although I would ask you for a donation to cover the expenses).

I would further caution you about Maritain's political/legal thought, which contradicts standard Thomistic doctrine. Maritain "updates" Thomistic principles in order to advocate democracy; whereas the Angelic Doctor, obviously, thinks democracy is the worst kind of government (cf., De regimine principum, or "On Kingship," where Aquinas defends monarchy as the highest form of government).

I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best in your law-school career.

Sancte Thoma More, ora pro nobis!

-Francisco J. Romero-Carrasquillo.
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