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Judaic Sources and Western ThoughtJerusalem's Enduring Presence$
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Jonathan Jacobs

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199583157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583157.001.0001

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Natural Law and Jewish Philosophy

Natural Law and Jewish Philosophy

(p.153) 6 Natural Law and Jewish Philosophy
Judaic Sources and Western Thought

David Novak

Oxford University Press

The chapter explicates the ways in which Jewish sources and the rabbinic tradition supply a conception of the relation between rational justification and the theistic ground of moral requirements that illuminates natural law theorizing. The Noahide commandments, important to debates about whether Judaism contains a conception of rational, natural law, are best understood as reflecting God's wisdom, discoverable when humans recognize the necessary divine grounding of all cogent human claims on each other. A natural law interpretation of the Noahide commandments corresponds best with classical Jewish sources. Novak claims that natural law categories of thought are a sound way of articulating the universally valid standards of justice in Jewish moral thought. Natural law provides a conceptual idiom for the rights and duties religious Jews regard as having a divine source and which are many of the same rights and duties secular persons recognize. The particularism of Jewish tradition can be a means of access to universal moral values and principles, rather than distancing Judaism from them. A rethinking of natural law shows that many of its fundamental elements are present in distinctively Judaic thought and sources.

Keywords:   Aristotle, creation, intercultural world, justice, nature, normative universality

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