Friday, August 28, 2015
John C.P. Goldberg, one of the leading tort and private law theory scholars writing today, has a terrifically interesting review here at The New Rambler of a new book by Richard Helmholz, Natural Law in Court: A History of Legal Theory in Practice (Harvard Press, 2015). What Goldberg writes in his conclusion about the possible implications of Helmholz's recounting of natural law in legal history is especially rich for those working in Catholic legal theory. As Goldberg puts it, natural law (or merely lawyers' belief in natural law) might be like phlogiston theory in the history of science ("an account of how the widespread acceptance of a demonstrably false idea can contribute to the growth of knowledge"), just another discourse about law that has now been supplanted, or, perhaps, a still-relevant way of thinking about what law is: "once we better understand what past jurists actually had in mind when they talked about natural law, we will recognize that (for better and worse) we continue to think about law similarly, even though we sometimes use different terminology."