Natural Law Philosophers Powerpoint

Natural Law and
its Philosophers
Natural Law
Natural Law: A paradigm that posits the existence of a law whose
content is set by nature and that therefore has validity
everywhere. (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences)
1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a
word or of one of its grammatical categories:
the paradigm of an irregular verb.
3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and
practices that constitutes a way of viewing
reality for the community that shares them,
especially in an intellectual discipline.
It holds the belief that law has some higher or divine origin.
The Players
their Philosophies
Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.)
• Highly influential Greek philosopher whose
works were not written down but
nevertheless influenced many to write about
his philosophical views (i.e. student Plato)
• He believed that there is a moral imperative in
law which must guide people
• defines justice as one of the cardinal human
• Citizens’ duty to argue against unjust laws
Famous Quote…
Socrates continued…
• use of Socratic Method to create philosophies and
expand knowledge
socratic method
a method of teaching by question and answer; used by Socrates to elicit truths from
his students method
• Was put on trial for charge of “criminal who corrupts
the young and atheism”
• 501 jurors who sentenced him to death
• Believed that even in the face of death the law
demands you to do what is morally right and avoid
what is wrong
Plato (427-347 B.C.)
Plato (427-347 B.C.)
• Immensely influential ancient Greek philosopher.
• Plato studied under Socrates, wrote many
philosophical dialogues, and founded the
Academy in Athens where Aristotle studied. His
work is often described as providing the
foundation of western philosophy.
• Idealism: Law should reflect certain universal,
absolute or eternal truths and virtues
• Even though humans could never fully achieve
these eternal truths, their laws should attempt to
do so.
Plato continued…
• The law should imitate nature (which is
inherently good)
• law makers should be servants of the law and aim
for true happiness of citizens and laws should
never be servants of government
• Purpose of law is to act as a moral guide or
educator for society
• compliance of laws happen at first from fear of
punishment, then out of habit and finally out of
commitment to the values reflected in law
• approach to applying law should be more
situational and less rigid
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.)
• Student of Plato – often regarded as the father of
natural law
• Rationalism: the study of nature, guided by
human reason, would reveal the true meaning of
• We can come to understand God by examining
His creation (i.e. the natural world – including
human nature)
Flowers need
Living things
need Care
Law requires
parents to care
for their children
Aristotle continued…
• Unlike Plato, who believed people could only
aspire to true justice but never achieve it,
Aristotle believed humans could through
reason and guided observation (Rationalism)
• Effect of law is to make people good by
habituating them to do good
• People would only follow law for fear of
Aristotle’s “Virtue Ethics”
• According to Aristotle, “virtue” describes how
well something does what it is meant to do.
• Example: The virtuous eye is the eye that sees,
because eyes are meant to see.
• The virtuous man, therefore, is the man that
does what he is meant to do. Thus, happiness
is best achieved through leading a virtuous life
and doing what man is intended (by God) to
Criticism: “Virtue Ethics”
• Criticized today for going too far in deriving
“laws of the universe from simple observation
and over-stretched reason”
• Such thinking without sufficient facts is
ineffective (scientific method) and more
experimentation is needed to support this
Cicero (106-43 B.C.E.)
• Roman philosopher
• law was seen by Romans as a way of justifying
their authority & expanding their empire
• “Law is the mind and reason of intelligent
man, the standard by which justice and
injustice are measured.”
• Cicero believed that the ultimate law was still
bound by natural principles
Cicero continued…
• However, civil or human laws should be set
aside if, in the minds of wise men, they
contradict the laws of nature.
• Advocated civil disobedience to compel
lawmakers to reform laws that failed to
conform with laws of nature (nature being
represented by activities that were in the
common good)
During the MIDDLE AGES
• Legal philosophy was heavily influenced by the
Catholic Church, a unity of spiritual and
earthly worlds
• ‘Canon Law’ developed as a result to rule over
all civil laws
Justinian (483-565 C.E.)
• Roman Emperor and philosopher
who ruled 527-565
• Believed that law could be divided into two parts:
1) universal laws of nature, and 2) civil laws
• Natural law in Justinian’s view, ensured that
people were born free. Therefore, laws that
permitted slavery were a violation of natural law.
Justinian continued…
• In 528 Justinian appointed a commission to draft a set of
new constitutions to gather all Roman law into one Code ~
The Justinian Code which was divided into four parts:
1. The Institutes: a textbook in law for students
2. The Digest: a casebook covering many trials
and decisions
3. The Codex: collection of statutes and principles
4. The Novels: new proposed laws
This legal code became the foundation of law in most western
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 C.E.)
• Dominican monk who identified with Aristotle’s
view on law and adapted it for Christian
• Law is the mirror of the natural world order made
known to humans via their own reasoning and
divine revelation through Christian prophets
• People are bound by conscience to obey law
• Because of his belief that justice and rights
sprang from natural law, he is credited with
having a major influence on modern human
rights theories and laws
St. Thomas Aquinas continued…
Developed four types of law:
1. Eternal Law: never changing
2. Natural Law – eternal law that operates
in humans
1. Divine Positive Law – law revealed in Scripture
2. Human Positive Law – laws for functioning
Stay Tuned….
Positive and Modern
Theories tomorrow

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