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A Critique of Natural Law

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A Critique of Natural Law

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  • October 2005
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A Critique of Natural Law

Essay #2
Barbara Palombo
256 Pinevalley Crescent
Woodbridge, Ontario
L4L 2W5
Email: palombo5152@rogers.com
Student #: 923621220

Phil 1002 6.0 Q
Class ID: 1227265
Team Instructor: Carol Bigwood

Natural Law is a concept that has caused ambiguity throughout the history of Western thought. There is a multitude of incompatible ideas of natural law that have caused even those who are in basic agreement on natural law theory to have opposing notions on the particulars. In spite of this confusion, there have been enough advocates among natural law thinking in Western society to make it possible to identify its major criticisms: 1.Natural law is immutable and is rooted in nature. This defines for man what is right, just, and good, and which ought to govern its actions. (Einwechter, 1999, p.1) 2.The universe is governed by reason, or rational principle which provides a basis for determining justice of man made laws. (Einwechter, p.1) 3.Natural law is the same for all human beings and at all times. (Cragg, unit 13, part 2)

In this paper, I will summarize the philosophical and historical roots of natural law theory as they relate to the three major criticisms, and challenge these major criticisms using theories such as utilitarianism and legal positivism. Plato and Aristotle proved to be of great importance in natural-law thinking from 5th century Greece until the present day. Plato had an idealist view of justice as a kind of absolute which can be understood only by the philosopher and fully realized in an ideal state. Aristotle regarded natural justice as universal, yet ideal. Stoic philosophy, which evolved after Aristotle, plays a great role in the history of natural law. Its emphasis was on reason as the key element of humanity. (Course Kit, 2005, p.77) Subsequently, Stoicism became associated with the spread of Roman power over the Mediterranean world, and the Roman legal conception, ius gentium –...