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LWSO201 - NLT Key Concepts_2.doc

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University of Calgary
Law and Society
LWSO 201
Marywyatt Sindlinger

Natural Law Theory Themes: What is the source of law’s normative power? What is the connection between law and morality? 1) Why is it called Natural Law Theory? a) “natural” refers to the nature of humankind • there is an essential connection between law and morality • Theories: Pagan rationalistic theory (Greek), Divine Christian natural law theories, secularized (Thomas Jefferson, USA) • Called natural because they are based on the nature of human beings (what is the essence of being a human being) • Central features of natural law theories: we are rational creatures and we can use our reason to figure out fundamental essence from which we can figure out universal moral principles • All laws made my men must then be tested against those moral principles, and only the laws that agree with these moral principles can be called laws • An unjust law is no law at all b) Nature of human kind discoverable/determinable through the application of human reason 2) Three Central Aspects of NLT a) Moral principles derived from human nature are universal and immutable i) Moral universalism vs. moral relativism • Moral universalism – what is morally right and wrong never changes • This was very important to the Greeks (believed in a stable universe) • Problems with moral universalism: for moral principles to be universal, they must be very vague (ex. Do good and avoid evil) but this means many different things to different people • Moral universal principles have been pursuing good – the basic principles don’t change • People are imperfect – we might not adhere to MUP but that’s not their fault • Moral Relativism – idea of what is morally right and wrong changes depending on many different things (ex. Amputations without anaesthetics were common before – now morally wrong) ii) Is-ought issue • Just because something is, doesn’t mean it’s ought to be b) Human nature and moral principles can be determined or discovered through human reason i) Individual vs. group reason • Individual (know it in our gut that it’s wrong) – deductive reasoning • Or through experience and practical wisdom – inductive reasoning • Group Reason – • If we only focus on rational sides of things we would ignore some of
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