And in any case, they have all had the effect of bringing the issue of whether or not there is a natural law right out into the open again, thus making it not just respectable, but even imperative to discuss it and to take it seriously.
What, though, is this doctrine of the so-called "natural law," that has thus had such a long and chequered career, and has even displayed, in the words of more than one authority, the happy faculty of repeatedly being able to bury its own undertakers!
Professor Crowe has even remarked that "the natural law, as an idea, is almost as old as philosophy itself."  He thinks he can find the origins of a natural law doctrine even among the pre-Socratics.
Following this, it received at the hands of the Sophists what appeared to be, if not a death-blow, then certainly a serious set-back.
Why does the skilled surgeon, for instance, make his incision in one way rather than another?
Don't we say that it is because he knows how to do the job?
And it is just such points that we need to be clearer about, if we are ever to find our way around in the contemporary literature, particularly as it surrounds the newly emerging contemporary rights theories.
To this end, we would make reference to an exceedingly illuminating article published in a few years ago by Vernon Bourke, entitled "Is Thomas Aquinas a Natural Law Ethicist?
Surely, the ancient and honorable doctrine of natural law is dead, is it not? " What, then, can a bibliographical essay such as this amount to, if not to a kind of funeral oration, or else to a chronicle of "old, forgotten far-off things, and battles long ago"? For two excellent recent historical studies - the older and shorter one by A. D' Entrèves, and the longer and very recent one by M. Crowe - both tell a similarly fascinating story of the continual births and rebirths of natural law doctrines in the course of their long history.
4 October-December 1978 published by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. It is republished with thanks to the original copyright holders.