Jan 9 th
Basic Question for next few weeks:
What is the relation between morality and civil law? Between the legal and moral norms that
govern a community?
What is the relation between morality and civil law?
Must a civil law accord with morality to count as a law? What is the status of morally unjust laws?
- status of laws that seem to be immoral or unjust
o ex. permissible for police to detain Jews for their ethnicity
o ex. segregation
Aquinas on Natural and Civil Law
- the angelic doctor
- the dumb ox
- stats from eternal law – which he says is the ‘divine reason’ that structures and rules the
- from eternal law, Aquinas moves to natural law, which he says is the part of the eternal
law that governs that natural stuff in the world
- from natural law, Aquinas moves to human laws, which he says are concrete applications
of the natural law
- laws of physics/logic/math
- govern and explain domains of enquiry
- among eternal laws are laws that govern and set standards for the functioning of the
natural world generally, including human behaviour
- 2 big claims:
o 1. Nature is Teleological
every living thing has a distinctive telos – goal, function, purpose, end…
something toward which it naturally moves – if left unhindered
ex. telos of tomato plant – flower and seed
ex. telos of wolf – more complicated…
since Darwin, don’t we know the end or goal of every living thing is just
• not sure. But Aquinas (and his contemporary defenders) are
thinking of a thing’s telos or function or end as more than just
o 2. Goodness/Badness explained in terms of a thing’s end or form or function
a thing’s telos/eng/goal determines what is good for it and what is bad
good: thrives at doing what it naturally does (achieving its telos)
detract from x’s telos = bad for x –- promote x’s telos: good for x
- natural law theory tells us to perform acts that contribute to the good or flourishing of…
o all other humans
o some other humans (fam/friends) o higher-level animals (mammals – animals that can feel pain)
o living things generally – insofar possible
- if you want to stay alive – you have to do some damage to other living things at some
point – Buddhist
- what does a good human life look like?
Natural Law and Human Law
- for Aquinas, human laws are specific applications of the natural law to concrete human
- room for leeway here – can be applied in different ways to different situations – to issue
in different human laws
- but nonetheless, human laws are an expression of the natural/moral law – participation*
- what about immoral or unjust laws?
o Augustine says – those laws aren’t really laws – don’t count
1. conceptual claim: x doesn’t count as ‘law’ unless x is just and
conforms to morality
• human laws are applications of moral laws
• if something is a human law, it has to have good moral content
and conform to moral facts
2. normative claim: x counts as law even if x isn’t just, but x has no
normative force unless x is just
Hobbes on Law and State of Nature
- main concern is the passages we read is to provide an account of the foundations of
o what is the purpose of the state?
o why do we form political community?
o what forms of political authority are legitimate?
- answers these questions by describing a movement from a primitive state of nature to
life under political community
State of Nature
1. imaginary condition of humankind