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Natural Law: A Summary and Critique | Darash Press
The decisive differences between this newer natural law and that of the Scholastics are three in number. The first is the individualistic trait manifesting itself in the predominance of the doctrine of the state of nature as the proper place in which to find the natural law. The second is the nominalist attitude which found expression in the separation of eternal law and natural moral law, of God’s essence and existence, of morality and law. The third is the resultant doctrine of the autonomy of human reason which, in conjunction with the rationalism of this school, led straight to an extravagance of syllogistic reasoning, of deductively constructed systems that served to regulate all legal institutions down to the minutest detail: the civil law governing debts, property, the family, and inheritances as well as constitutional and international law. And, in contrast with the imperfect historical law, these legal systems possessed the inestimable merit and value of emanating from the pure rational nature of man.
The dispute over whether the intellect of the will is the nobler faculty had, in the moral positivism of Occam’s school, split the scholastic doctrine of natural law to its very core. The scholastic revival of the age of the Protestant Revolt, however, successfully understood the speculative rehabilitation of the and on an ontological basis, just as it also went back to St. Thomas in its theology.
Natural Law Essays - StudentShare
This controversy had a still deeper significance. Suarez and Bellarmine wished to stress the inner oneness of natural law and eternal law. They wished to do this, moreover, by way of the recognition of God as the Lawgiver who wills that actions correspond to being, to essential nature. Vasquez, the Spanish Augustine, had regarded rational nature, irrespective of the positive will of God, as the primary ground of the obligation to obey the natural law. For him, consequently, since an act of the lawmaker’s will belongs necessarily to the nature of law, the natural law is not properly law in the strict sense: it is not merely This view, a very uncommon one among the Late Scholastics, assumed great importance in the rationalist doctrine of natural law. Arriaga and Grotius were already teaching, in order fully to bring out its immutability, that the natural law would have force even if there were no God. Out of this there developed an autonomy of abstract human reason conditioned by the separation of the eternal law and the natural law, and also the ethico-legal rationalism of the individualistic natural law (a development which, by the way, Suarez had foretold in his controversy with Vasquez). This loosening was thus the signal for the outbreak of a fanatical rationalism in speculation, which was bent upon drawing all possible conclusions from this isolated and, later still, individualistically interpreted pure rational nature. Moreover, such fanaticism lacked all corrective of history as the domain of God’s providential activity. To the rationalistic natural law corresponded Deism in theology.
The natural moral law is therefore a judgment of reason which presents actions as commanded or forbidden by the Author of reason, because the light of reason shows them to be in agreement or disagreement with man’s essential nature; and at the same time reason judges that God wills that which accords with nature: essential being ought to be realized. In its essence and intellectual content the natural law is absolutely dependent upon the divine intellect; in its real existence, upon the divine will.
Natural Law - Essay by - Anti Essays
Any positive law which offends against the natural moral law is not a law that is binding in a moral sense, i.e., in conscience. But only those laws are absolutely null and void that run counter to the prohibitive natural law. Therefore a law that would positively prescribe murder or perjury would not be a law at all, nor may one obey it. The case where a law is opposed to the affirmative natural law is different. The citizen must put up with encroachment on the part of a government that deals unjustly, e.g., in the matter of taxation, if through resistance the public order, already threatened by the very fact of the unjust law, would be still more gravely menaced. Only such authority as enacts laws which are in conflict with the prohibitive natural law ceases to be authority in the rightful sense and becomes tyranny. Mere power can impose no inner duty of obedience. But this truth has nothing to do with the fact that among the Indians, for instance, laws prevail which are contrary to natural law. For such laws are made by lawgivers and accepted by subjects or members of the community, not because these laws are immoral and bad, but because conscience, darkened through deficient rational insight and troubled by passions, is unable to recognize their inherent badness. Indeed, St. Thomas admitted such a possibility in the case of conclusions from the natural moral law.
Conversely, however, it follows from the fact of as well as from the ethical character and goal of community life, and of the state in particular, that positive human laws are absolutely necessary for determining the further inferences from the first principles in the interest of a more exact and readily discernible establishment of order and for the setting up of institutions needed for community life. The natural-law prohibition of adultery implies at the same time an affirmation of marriage and of the general norms that are most needed for its functioning as an institution. “Thou shalt not steal” presupposes the institution of private property as pertaining to the natural law; but not, for example, the feudal property arrangements of the Middle Ages or the modern capitalist system. Since the natural law lays down general norms only, it is the function of the positive law to undertake the concrete, detailed regulation of real and personal property and to prescribe the formalities for conveyance of ownership.
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Concerning the content of the natural law Aristotle had as little to say as Plato. This was in sharp contrast to the Sophists, who because of their political and socio-critical bias had admitted many reform proposals and demands into their natural law. The silence of Plato and Aristotle finds its explanation in their idea of the natural law: they set out from the conservative conviction that the positive law wishes to realize the natural law. Added to this was their strong belief in the excellence of the existing laws of the polis as well as in the conformity of such laws to the natural law. The city-state, its general welfare, and its happiness occupied so prominent a place in the ethical thinking of Plato and Aristotle—for whom indeed the idea of man achieves ultimate perfection in the good citizen—that they looked upon the existing laws as something holy. In contrast to the individualistic attack launched by the Sophists against them, the natural law of Plato and Aristotle served precisely to justify the existing laws and not merely as a basis for criticizing them, although the function of criticism was regarded as included in the idea of natural law. Furthermore, for Aristotle as for Plato the polis or city-state was the great pedagogue, against which, strictly speaking, no natural, subjective right of the citizen could be admitted. They acknowledged no goal of man that transcends the ideal polis. They remained state socialists. Their doctrine of natural law was from the political standpoint conservative, but it was based on metaphysics. With the effective discovery, through Christianity, of human personality and with the recognition of God’s intellect and will as the source of the natural moral law, rational thought would thenceforth be in a position to work its way through to the true natural law.
Natural Law vs. Positive Law Essay - 521 Words
With the disappearance of these intellectual giants from the scene, however, the Skeptics, the positivists of their day, began at once to hold forth in the same halls and gardens of the Academy at Athens. The senses, they taught, do not convey true knowledge but only illusion; even reason does not guarantee the truth and certitude of knowledge; certainly, then, truth cannot arise from the illusions of both the senses and reason. All laws, whether of art, speech, morality, or right, are arbitrary. They have their origin in mere agreement, and they vary with the change of the free will which establishes them. As no assertion is of more value than its opposite, so, too, no law is worth any more than its opposite. Likewise, since we cannot perceive the essence or nature of things and of man, a natural law is impossible.
Free natural law Essays and Papers | page 3
Skepticism attained its highest point in the teaching of Carneades ( 215–125 ), who for a long time was scholarch at Athens. About 155 , in Rome, he directed his attacks against the natural-law doctrine of the Stoics, a contest which he had made the principal mission of his life. There he won fame through his pro-and-con method of demonstration, whereby he strove to heap ridicule upon the notion of justice. One of his most celebrated arguments was drawn from the borderline case known as “the plank of Carneades.” At a time of shipwreck two persons swim to a plank and grasp it simultaneously. But the plank can hold up and save only one of the two. In the light of this case what is right, and who has the right to the plank? Both and neither, he answered, in such a case of dire necessity and self-preservation. (Seventeen centuries later Suarez furnished the correct solution: the order of justice here terminates, and the order of charity governs the case.) Positivism in ethics and law reached its climax with Carneades, again in connection with the repudiation of objective knowledge of reality and essences and with the denial of metaphysics.
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