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  • La ragione e la norma: Dibattiti attorno alla legge naturale fra xii e xiii secolo by Ricardo Saccenti
  • Jason Taliadoros
Saccenti, Ricardo. La ragione e la norma: Dibattiti attorno alla legge naturale fra xii e xiii secolo. Turnhout: Brepols, 2019. Pp. xi, 358. €65.00. ISBN: 978-2-503-58654-0.

In English, the title of Ricardo Saccenti's monograph translates as Reason and the Norm: Debates on Natural Law between the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. More specifically, the book deals with the concept of natural law in its various manifestations (lex naturalis, lex naturae, ius naturale, ius naturae) between the second half of the eleventh and the second half of the thirteenth centuries (ix). Significantly, the disciplinary ambit is wide, since the scope of the book covers texts of Roman law, canons of the Church, the writings of the Patristics, the works of philosophers, and Scripture—in short, a multidisciplinary approach that does not distinguish between legal and theological disciplines (x). As Saccenti acknowledges, this book is the 'fruit' of work done previously, such as in his bibliographical survey Debating Medieval Natural Law: A Survey (Notre Dame 2016). As will be seen in this review, the book under review is considerably different in scope and scale to that earlier work.

Saccenti's book contains a short preface, an introduction, six substantive chapters, and a conclusion (chapter 7); there is also an extensive bibliography and three indices—one each for manuscripts, medieval and ancient names, and modern names. It is an impressive piece of research and scholarship. It is a pity that it will not reach some readers who do not read Italian.

The main purpose of this review, therefore, is to outline the contents of the work so that readers not familiar with Italian will nevertheless be able to follow its arguments and make use of it to the extent that they are able. The descriptive nature of this review is also aimed at capturing something of the idiom of Saccenti's prose, which is not always easy to understand. I do apologise in advance, however, for the lack of elegance or fluency in the quotes and paraphrases that my crude Italian entails. [End Page 237]

The short preface acknowledges an article by Gianfranco Fioravanti on Vittorio Sainati and medieval philosophy in Teoria 25 (2005), which placed importance on the theme of natural law and the manner in which it was said to be dealt with between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries (ix). The topic of lex naturalis and its use in a plurality of disciplinary ambits and in the philosophical and theological writings from the age of the Scholastics remains a promising terrain of research' (ix). This book, the author reveals, is an attempt to approach this issue and 'locate the many veins of cultural development that this theme reveals on the culture of Latin Europe' (ix).

The introduction, with the title 'The Normativity of Nature', is lengthy and sets out in detail the many and varied scholarly, literary, and historiographical contexts, as well as the methodological challenges that the book faces in six sections. Saccenti begins the first section of the introduction ('Critical Nodes and Historiographical Supports on a Medieval Notion' 1-4) with an acknowledgment of Remi Brague's La loi de dieu: Histoire philosophique d'une alliance (Paris 2005). Brague's thesis was that the modern separation between secular and divine law is illusory since the two were never truly separated. Brague suggested this thesis by tracking the history and practice of divine law in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and surveying the alliances and links with divine law in the different Abrahamic traditions—what he calls the 'theo-practical' problem. The apogee of this alliance between divinity and law, for Brague, occurred in the medieval works of such authors as Maimonides, al-Ghazali, and St Thomas Aquinas. With Aquinas and other theologians, as well as jurists, Brague 'underscored the function of historical links represented by the reflections of jurists and theologians of the Europe in the Latin Middle Ages' (ix).

Saccenti links Brague's indivisibility thesis to the several intellectual, scholarly, and historiographical strands on natural law or lex naturalis (1). One of...