This Symposium aims to honour the work of Amanda Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra, a Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Queens’ College until her untimely death in 2012.
Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra was a natural lawyer. She maintained that there is a small set of natural laws of justice, such as the prohibition of murder, which constrain our practical reason: they limit the range of actions which one may reasonably adopt. For Perreau- Saussine Ezcurra these constraints held for all human beings independently of any positive law. At the same time, she argued that positive laws can be guides to natural justice: statutory law, customary law, and divine law help us to recognize these natural laws of justice (as is the case, for instance, for criminal codes which prohibit murder in all countries). Yet, Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra was keenly aware that positive laws are fallible: all too often they are guides to injustice rather than justice. For her, any adequate account of natural law had therefore to determine when and why we are justified to rely on the guidance of positive laws. There needed to be an alternative way of identifying natural law, a way which does not resort to the guidance of positive law.
For many philosophers who share this belief in natural laws of justice this alternative way consists in an appeal to human reason alone. Following an older tradition whose primary exponent is perhaps Thomas Aquinas, Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra, by contrast, argued that justice arises from a law-like ordering of the animate and inanimate world and from human needs that exist prior to human reason and action. Moreover, belief in natural law, for her, also presupposed belief in a benign providence or sustainment of this order.
In an unfinished book, entitled Law as a Guide to Justice: Old Questions for New Natural Lawyers, Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra wanted to defend these ideas and thereby encourage fellow natural lawyers to expose the premises of any belief in natural laws of justice. Taking up this encouragement, the organisers of the Symposium have invited a handful of distinguished scholars to sympathetically, but critically explore four central themes of Perreau-Saussine Ezcurra’s interdisciplinary work:
1. The benign law-like ordering of the world and especially of human nature (philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology)
2. The derivation of exceptionless natural laws of justice from this order (natural law theory)
3. The guidance afforded by positive state law, custom, and divine law (legal philosophy)
4. The benign structure and providential ordering sustaining the natural order and representing the foundation of natural law (theology and metaphysics).
The Symposium is free, but requires registration on http://tinyurl.com/joce765.
Date and time: Saturday, 4 March 2017 from 9.00am to 6.00pm
Catering: free coffee and lunch (all voluntary donations are most welcome!)
A full programme is available to download.