natural law

Good Essays
NATURAL LAW
ROBERT P. GEORGE*

Oliver Wendell Holmes, the legal philosopher and judge whom Richard Posner has, with admiration, dubbed “the
American Nietzsche,”1 established in the minds of many people a certain image of what natural law theories are theories of, and a certain set of reasons for supposing that such theories are misguided and even ridiculous. While I have my own reasons for admiring some of Holmes’s work—despite, rather than because of, the Nietzscheanism that endears him to Judge Posner—I think that everything Holmes thought and taught about natural law is wrong. I have elsewhere set forth a detailed critique of Holmes’s thought,2 which I will not repeat here.
Rather, this Article offers a constructive account of what natural law theories are in fact theories of, explains why the idea of natural law and natural rights is far more plausible than people influenced by Holmes have supposed, and shows how natural law theories are similar to and different from leading compet* McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence; Director, James Madison Program in
American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University. I originally presented this
Article as the 2007 John Dewey Lecture in Philosophy of Law at Harvard Law
School on April 9, 2007. I am deeply grateful to Dean Elena Kagan and the faculty of Harvard Law School for the honor of being invited to return to my alma mater for this occasion. I was introduced to the project of philosophical reflection on law and legal systems, and on the complex web of relationships between law and morality, by my teachers at Harvard: Lewis Sargentich, Charles Fried, Richard
Parker, Henry Steiner, Harold Berman, Dan Coquillette, and Roberto Unger. They launched me on what became my life’s work. I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude, and it is a pleasure to be able to acknowledge it here. Some material in this Article originally appeared in an interview I gave that was published as Natural Law and Human

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Natural Law

    • 596 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Natural Law 1. The "order of nature" interpretation of natural law is also known as "generic natural law". This interpretation of natural law is influenced by Ulpian's idea of ius naturale, which is what man shares in common with the animals. The "order of nature" emphasizes human physical and biological nature in determining morality. This theory of natural law supports physicalism over personalism and is strictly biological. Physicalism understands nature as the viceroy of God and that the…

    • 596 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Natural Law

    • 750 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Describe the approach of the Natural Law theory to moral decision making Natural law is an absolute and deontological ethic which alligns itself to teleological aspects of morality. Cicero stated that ‘True law is right reason in accordance with nature.’ which is his definition of what is good, essentially linking it to the views of natural law. According to natural law, all humans know what is right and wrong as it is in their nature. Therefore, right and wrong do not need to be taught as…

    • 750 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Natural Law

    • 756 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Q. Explain the theory of Natural Law Natural Law is unchangeable principles that are the basis of human activity. These principles are universally applicable as they are an absolute truth. In order to explain the theory of Natural Law, we will look at all the different aspects such as Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s theory of Natural Law. Natural Law was founded by the Ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Aquinas. Aristotle first discovered Natural Law as he was anti-form and believed in potentiality…

    • 756 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Natural Law

    • 1397 Words
    • 6 Pages

    “Natural Law does not provide an adequate basis for morality” Discuss how far this is true By Lydia Davies In this essay, the arguments made will help to consider whether or not if Natural Law does provide an adequate basis for morality or not. The arguments will look into Aquinas theory and if his beliefs provide a sense of morality for all humans. Natural Law is a moral theory which maintains that law should be based on morality and ethics. Natural Law holds that the law is based on what’s correct…

    • 1397 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Natural Law

    • 2289 Words
    • 10 Pages

    DEFINITION OF NATURAL LAW Natural law is a law or body of laws that derives from nature and is believed to be binding upon human actions apart from or in conjunction with laws established by human authority. John M. Finnis defines natural law as “a set of principles of practical reasonableness in ordering human life and human community”. Finnis states that natural law consists of two sets of principles. These consist of certain basic values and requirement of practical reasonableness. It…

    • 2289 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Natural Laws

    • 1548 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Natural Laws of Development Growth and development through self-activity is Nature's greastest miracle. Man creates himself according to the laws of growth and development. It is only a cycle in which both adults and children take their places. The child is the constructor and maker of the adult man. The child is the father of the man. In the pre-natal period the child has established all the vital organs which after birth are developed enough for survival. In a parallel manner the foundations…

    • 1548 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Natural Law Theory

    • 662 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Natural Law Theory The natural law theory is a theory that dates back to the time of the Greeks and great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle. Defined as the law which states that human are inborn with certain laws preordained into them which let them determine what is right and what is wrong.(Bainton 174) This theory was them adapted by religious philosophers to fit the Christian religion.(Berkhof 114) This, however was not exactly the same as the original. The classical thinkers were the…

    • 662 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Natural Moral Law

    • 1934 Words
    • 8 Pages

    Ethics and Philosophy- Paige Stewart a) Explain how Natural Moral Law can be used to decide the right moral action Plan: Explain the basic principles of Natural Moral Law Explain about the purpose and that everything seems to be striving to fulfil its purpose Link Aquinas to Aristotle ‘Do good and avoid evil’ Primary precepts and the use of reason to establish the secondary precepts Difference between real and apparent goods and interior and exterior acts Thomas Aquinas used his understanding…

    • 1934 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Natural Law Weaknesses

    • 576 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Natural Law | Strengths | Weaknesses | Rational – Natural Law uses practical reason, it is a common-sense approach. | Too simplistic - Humans do not have a single ‘fixed’ human nature. | God - Doesn’t require belief in God, as it is based on empirical observations of our nature. | God - Requires belief in God, as it relies on a God-given purpose | Objective – Natural Law gives us rules that are true independently of our individual thoughts and desires. | Outcomes - Leads to immoral outcomes…

    • 576 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Natural Law and Positivism

    • 2455 Words
    • 10 Pages

    approaches of natural law and legal positivism in regard to the statement “law is quite distinct from, and its validity is in no way dependent upon, morals.” Both approaches agree that morality can and usually does play a role in the law, but there is a disagreement as to whether there is any role it must play, as discussed by Denise Meyerson. The first appearance of natural law was over 2500 years ago in ancient Greece, the natural approach of law believes that there is a higher law, such as the…

    • 2455 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays