Level of Education



Philosophy of law and legal jurisprudence have received recent attention in the United States due to the significant change in the makeup of the Supreme Court. Historical understanding of the legal philosophies that have influenced the U.S. and the ancient principles upon which they are built must of necessity be properly assessed. This thesis proposes that Aquinas’s conception of Natural Law as the basis for legal teleology provides a superior grounding for American jurisprudence than the theories of legal positivism and critical legal theory due to the superiority of Natural Law’s integration of ultimate final causes. Through a survey of critical historic and modern texts, each of these philosophies is considered and inductively assessed in relation to the consistency and belief-worthiness of their views toward the purpose, or end, of law. Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae provides the starting point. A review of the development of the final cause in Western philosophy informs the critical assessment of each legal theory. This paper argues that critical legal studies and legal positivism fail to provide a moral and teleological grounding for law and fail to justify their own position, while Thomistic Natural Law theory succeeds in both regards.