James Bernard Murphy

Professor of Government
Director, Daniel Webster Project

The focus of my scholarship has always been to elaborate Aristotle’s nested hierarchy of development. According to Aristotle, to become a good and excellent person, we need to inherit the right natural endowment, acquire the right habits, and reflectively adjust those habits through right reason. In this nested hierarchy, our habits rest upon our biological nature while our reason rests upon our habits. Aristotle also extended this hierarchy to political development in which we begin with natural resources, develop social customs, and then revise those customs through rational law. In my first book, The Moral Economy of Labor: Aristotelian Themes in Economic Theory, I explored the nested hierarchy of the natural, customary, and stipulated division of labor. Specialization in work begins with natural aptitudes; these natural aptitudes lead to various customary divisions of labor; finally, legislators and managers create deliberately-stipulated divisions of labor within a society or firm. I then turned to the development of law, from natural law to customary law to positive law in my books, The Philosophy of Positive Law and The Philosophy of Customary Law. By natural reason human beings grasp, inchoately, rules of conduct; these rules are then fleshed out through particular social customs; finally, reflection upon these customs leads to the deliberate stipulation of positive law. In Your Whole Life, I elaborate a nested hierarchy of human development from biological growth, to psychological awareness, to autobiographical narrative.

(603) 646-2862
Silsby 206
HB 6108
Department(s): 
Government
Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Education: 
B.A. Yale University
M.C.P. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. Yale University

Selected Publications

A Geneaology of Violence and Religion: René Girard in Dialogue  (Sussex Academic Press, 2018).

"Does religion give rise to violence--or the other way around?," The Washington Post, November 16, 2015.

The Philosophy of Customary Law  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Op-Ed: In Defense of Being a Kid : Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9, 2011.

Article : “The Lawyer and the Layman: Two Perspectives on the Rule of Law,” Review of Politics , 68 (Winter 2006) 101-131.

The Philosophy of Positive Law: Foundations of Jurisprudence, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

The Nature of Customary Law: Philosophical, Legal, and Historical Perspectives, edited with Amanda-Perreau-Saussine, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming March 2007.

"Habit and Convention of the Foundation of Custom," The Nature of Customary Law: Philosophical, Legal, and Historical Perspectives, edited with Amanda-Perreau-Saussine, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming March 2007.

"Ethical Ideals in Journalism: Civic Uplift or the Pursuit of Truth?" with Aine Donovan and Steven Ward, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20 2/3, forthcoming Summer 2006.

"Against Civic Schooling," in Social Philosophy and Policy, 21/1: 221-265, Winter 2004 and in Morality and Politics, Ellen Frankel Paul, et al., ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 221-265, 2004.

"Introduction" (with Richard Oliver Brooks) to Aristotle and Modern Law, Richard O. Brooks and James B. Murphy, eds., in series "Philosophers and Law," Tom Campbell, ed., Dartmouth, U.K.: Ashgate Publishers, 2003.

"Humane Work and the Challenges of Job Design," with David Pyke, in Rethinking the Purpose of Business: Interdisciplinary Essays from the Catholic Social Tradition, S.A. Cortright and Michael J. Naughton, Eds., Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002.

"Equality in Exchange," in The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 47: 85-121, 2002.

"Nature, Custom and Reason as the Explanatory and Practical Principles of Aristotelian Political Science," The Review of Politics, 64: 469-495, Summer 2002.

"Practical Reason and Moral Psychology in Aristotle and Kant," Social Philosophy and Policy, 18: 257-299, Summer 2001 and in Moral Knowledge, Ellen Frankel Paul, et. al., ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

"The Quest for a Balanced Appraisal of Work in Catholic Social Thought," in Labor, Solidarity and the Common Good, S.A. Cortright, ed., Carolina Academic Press, 2000.

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Works in progress

How to Think About Politics (with Graeme Garrard), Bloomsbury Publishers, 2019.

Your Whole Life: Childhood and Adulthood in Dialogue

The Utopian Bible: Divine Ideals and Human Realities