Natural Law Essay

1968 words - 8 pages

Natural Law
Is a philosophy of law that is determined by nature, and so is unive
rsal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature both social and personal and deduce binding rules of moral behavior from it. Natural law is often contrasted with the positive law of a given political community, society, or state. In legal theory, on the other hand, the interpretation of positive law requires some reference to natural law
Although natural law is often conflated with common law, the two are distinct in that natural law is a view that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally cognizable by virtue of human reason or human nature, ...view middle of the document...

According to some, Aquinas conflates the natural law and natural right, the latter of which Aristotle posits in Book V of the Nicomachean Ethics (Book IV of the Eudemian Ethics). According to this interpretation, Aquinas's influence was such as to affect a number of early translations of these passages in an unfortunate manner, though more recent translations render them more literally. Aristotle notes that natural justice is a species of political justice, the scheme of distributive and corrective justice that would be established under the best political community; were this to take the form of law, this could be called a natural law, though Aristotle does not discuss this and suggests in the Politics that the best regime may not rule by law at all.
The best evidence of Aristotle's having thought there was a natural law comes from the Rhetoric, where Aristotle notes that, aside from the "particular" laws that each people has set up for itself, there is a "common" law that is according to nature. Specifically, he quotes Sophocles and Empedocles:
The Stoics ;Stoic natural law
The development of this tradition of natural justice into one of natural law is usually attributed to the Stoics. The rise of natural law as a universal system coincided with the rise of large empires and kingdoms in the Greek world. Whereas the "higher" law Aristotle suggested one could appeal to was emphatically natural, in contradistinction to being the result of divine positive legislation, the Stoic natural law was indifferent to the divine or natural source of the law: the Stoics asserted the existence of a rational and purposeful order to the universe (a divine or eternal law), and the means by which a rational being lived in accordance with this order was the natural law, which spelled out action that accorded with virtue.[1]
Natural law first appeared among the stoics who believed that God is everywhere and in everyone. Within humans is a "divine spark" which helps them to live in accordance with nature. The stoics felt that there was a way in which the universe had been designed and natural law helped us to harmonize with this.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Cicero wrote in his De Legibus that both justice and law derive their origin from what nature has given to man, from what the human mind embraces, from the function of man, and from what serves to unite humanity. For Cicero, natural law obliges us to contribute to the general good of the larger society. The purpose of positive laws is to provide for "the safety of citizens, the preservation of states, and the tranquility and happiness of human life." In this view, "wicked and unjust statutes" are "anything but 'laws,'" because "in the very definition of the term 'law' there inheres the idea and principle of choosing what is just and true." Law, for Cicero, "ought to be a reformer of vice and an incentive to virtue." Cicero expressed the view that "the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own...

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