Natural Law Theory

Posted by Jake on Feb 10, 2017

Listed on pp. 138-139 of your text are several criticisms of natural law theory. Which of those criticisms did you take to be the strongest, and why?

I regard the following quote as the strongest criticism: "Some philosophers have depicted human nature as evil, deceitful, and uncontrolled"

The key point is that not all characteristics of human nature are 'good'. Because of this, Thomas Hobbes argued that society needs a strong government otherwise life would be "nasty, brutish, and short". On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas claimed that good and evil is derived from the rational nature of humans.

The evidence in opposition of Aquinas and Natural Law is in the actions of people. Humans have done terrible things and participated in behavior that was harmful to one another consistently throughout history. Some have argued that those individuals participating in the evil actions are simply irrational or outright transgressing natural law. But how can we know for sure? Very intelligent individuals willingly commit heinous acts, are they all irrational and opposing an inherent knowledge of good? If you compare different cultures across the world, each culture will have different moral codes according to what they believe is justified. If there was a consistent good derived from the rational nature of all humans, then wouldn't every culture have the same moral codes?

Whether or not we can actually derive a set of moral laws from what is in nature and what we can conclude with reason is highly debatable. I don't always think an individual can easily discern an action as morally correct, especially in times of determining whether to put themselves before others.

A final question for more consideration: Are particular human actions banned by our civil laws because we have determined that it hurts the way our society operates, or have we created those laws as a result of our natural conclusion that they are bad?