Morality and the Human Goods

An Introduction to Natural Law Ethics

Alfonso Gómez-Lobo

". . . a readable and insightful conversation into the starting point and basic structure of moral philosophy."
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A concise and accessible introduction to natural law ethics, this book introduces readers to the mainstream tradition of Western moral philosophy. Building on philosophers from Plato through Aquinas to John Finnis, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo links morality to the protection of basic human goods — life, family, friendship, work and play, the experience of beauty, knowledge, and integrity — elements essential to a flourishing, happy human life.

Gómez-Lobo begins with a discussion of Plato's Crito as an introduction to the practice of moral philosophy, showing that it requires that its participants treat each other as equals and offer rational arguments to persuade each other. He then puts forth a general principle for practical rationality: one should pursue what is good and avoid what is bad. The human goods form the basis for moral norms that provide a standard by which actions can be evaluated: do they support or harm the human goods? He argues that moral norms should be understood as a system of rules whose rationale is the protection and enhancement of human goods. A moral norm that does not enjoin the preservation or enhancement of a specific good is unjustifiable. Shifting to a case study approach, Gómez-Lobo applies these principles to a discussion of abortion and euthanasia. The book ends with a brief treatment of rival positions, including utilitarianism and libertarianism, and of conscience as our ultimate moral guide.

Written as an introductory text for students of ethics and natural law, Morality and the Human Goods makes arguments consistent with Catholic teaching but is not based on theological considerations. The work falls squarely within the field of philosophical ethics and will be of interest to readers of any background.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Original Setting: Plato's Crito

1. A First Principle

2. Supplementary Principles of Practical Rationality: Basic Human Goods

3. General Comments on Basic Goods

4. Prudential Guidelines for the Pursuit of Basic Goods

5. Agents, Actions, Consequences

6. Judging Actions: Moral Norms

7. On Abortion

8. On Euthanasia

9. Epilogue: At the Moral Crossroads


". . . a readable and insightful conversation into the starting point and basic structure of moral philosophy."—Catholic Studies

"An excellent introduction to the approach in moral philosophy."—National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

"A careful reconstruction and rigorously argued defense of what was once, and may yet be again, the mainstream western tradition of thought about morality. It is a book not just for philosophers, but for anyone interested in reasoning about ethics."—Robert P. George, Princeton University

"[This book] sets out and defends the basic features of traditional morality in a lucid, concise, and engaging manner . . . Should be requisite reading for all students of moral philosophy."—David S. Oderberg, University of Reading


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Alfonso Gómez-Lobo is Ryan Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Georgetown University.

168 pp., 6 x 9

Dec 2001

168 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-885-6
Dec 2001

168 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-376-6
Dec 2001

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