Definitions · Law · Sequences · Uncategorized

What Do We Meany by Natural Law?

(with updates by Doolittle)

A Little History of Natural Law – From The Good, to the Moral, to the Rational, to the Scientific.

What is Law?

Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority, and having binding legal force. That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences is a law (Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p. 884).  Jurisprudence is the philosophy of law and how the law developed.

Natural Law is a broad and often misapplied term tossed around various schools of philosophy, science, history, theology, and law. Immanuel Kant reminded us, ‘What is law?’ may be said to be about as embarrassing to the jurist as the well-know question ‘What is Truth?’ is to the logician.

Natural Law – A Moral Theory of Jurisprudence
Natural Law evolved as a moral theory of jurisprudence, which maintains that law should be based on morality and ethics. Natural Law holds that the law is based on what’s “correct.” Natural Law is “discovered” by humans through the use of reason and choosing between good and evil. Therefore, Natural Law finds its power in discovering certain universal standards in morality and ethics.

The Greeks – Living In Correspondence with The Natural World
The Greeks — Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle emphasized the distinction between “nature” (physis, φúσις) and “law,” “custom,” or “convention” (nomos, νóμος). What the law commanded varied from place to place, but what was “by nature” should be the same everywhere. Aristotle (BC 384—322) is considered by many to be the father of “natural law.” In Rhetoric, he argues that aside from “particular” laws that each people has set up for itself, there is a “common law” or “higher law” that is according to nature (Rhetoric 1373b2–8).

The StoicsA Rational and Purposeful Law
The development of natural law theory continued in the Hellenistic school of philosophy, particularly with the Stoics. The Stoics pointed to the existence of a rational and purposeful order to the universe. The means by which a rational being lived in accordance with this cosmic order was considered natural law. Unlike Aristotle’s “higher law,” Stoic natural law was indifferent to the divine or natural source of that law. Stoic philosophy was very influential with Roman jurists such as Cicero, thus playing a significant role in the development of Roman legal theory.

The Christians — A Utopian Supernatural Law
Augustine (AD 354—430) equates natural law with man’s Pre-Fall state. Therefore, life according to nature is no longer possible and mankind must instead seek salvation through the divine law and Christ’s grace. Gratian (12th century) reconnected the concept of natural law and divine law. “The Human Race is ruled by two things: namely, natural law and usages (mos, moris, mores). Natural law is what is contained in the law and the Gospel. By it, each person is commanded to do to others what he wants done to himself and is prohibited from inflicting on others what he does not want done to himself.” (Decretum, D.1 d.a.c.1; ca. 1140 AD)

The Enlightenment Thinkers (AD 1600 – 2016) – A Rational Natural Law – From Property
(Bacon/English, Locke/British, Jefferson/Anglo-German,

The 20th Century Thinkers – The Reduction of Social Science to Property Rights
(Hayek/Austrian, Rothbard/Jewish, Hoppe/German)

21st Century Thinkers – The Science of Cooperation (In Markets)
(Doolittle)
The attempt to mature Stoic, Roman, Germanic, and British empirical law into a formal logic wherein all rights are reduced to property rights,  and where such law is strictly constructed from the prohibition on the imposition of costs – costs that would cause retaliation and increase the costs, risk, and likelihood of cooperation.  Impediments to cooperation. Where cooperation creates prosperity in a division of perception, cognition, knowledge, labor, and advocacy.

In other words, natural law, evolved from empirical common law, as the formal category(property), logic (construction), empiricism(from observation), and science (continuous improvement) of human cooperation.

In this view, ethics, morality, economics, law, politics constitute the science of cooperation: social science. Everything else is justification, advocacy, literature, and propaganda.

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4 thoughts on “What Do We Meany by Natural Law?

  1. Quibble: there was no “Hellenistic school of philosophy” per se. “Hellenistic” refers to an era and a civilizational domain. In that domain a number of “schools” existed–Stocis, Skeptics, Epicureans, Pythagoreans, Cynics, etc.
    Also, review “It’s” vs “its”.
    From a propaedeutic perspective, you might flesh out the later entries into paragraph form as you have the earlier entries. Otherwise, good start. You might at some point want to tackle how both Catholics and Protestants accepted or rejected natural law justifications. Finally, a review of the consequences of nominalism vs realism is involved (one that does not simply re-hash nominalist perspective as self-evidently correct).

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