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LWSO 201 Lecture Notes - Rational Basis Review, Moral Universalism, Moral Relativism

Law and Society
Course Code
LWSO 201
Marywyatt Sindlinger

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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
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