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Natural Law and Society

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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC101Y1
Professor
Tanya
Semester
Fall

Description
Natural Law and Theory (one complete article pg. 67-72) Jeffrie G. Murphy and Jules L. Coleman - connection between law and morality - According to natural law theory, it is part of the very meaning of “law” that it passes a moral test. This does not necessarily mean that there is an equivalence between law and morality, because some natural law theorists are willing to admit that there are many moral obligations that have no place as legal requirements - and that many legal requirements do not, in content, represent moral obligations - “an unjust law is no law at all”. Moral validity is a logically necessary condition for legal validity - There is perhaps a sense in which this suspicion may be justified, at least for the earliest and simplest versions of the theory. However, because the motivations of theory were important and because it was grouping, however confusedly, toward some genuinely profound insights and because it has been and continues to be influential in some circles, natural law theory merits study in an introduction to legal philosophy - Even though some hard and unsympathetic things will be said about natural law theory in this section, the reader should suspend judgment about the ultimate merits of the theory until reading the much more sympathetic later section - Classical natural law theory was originally developed by such ancient writers as Plato, Aristotle - Though the claim that there is an essential connection between law and morality will strike many modern readers as counterintuitive, the theory represented a distinct advance in the history of thought for it grew directly out of the development of a moral outlook on social and legal arrangements. - People had simply obeyed the law out of custom, habit or fear of force - Increasingly, however, reflective people insisted on raising the question: Why morally ought one obey the law? It cannot be morally right to obey the law merely because it is customary to obey it, since obviously customs can be irrational and evil. Just because something is usually done it does not follow that it ought to be done. Similarly with force: the threat of force can hardly establish the law’s rational claim on our allegiance. - One is obligated to obey the law only if the content of the law itself is moral - One might wonder why such theories are typically referred to as “natural law” theories. Where, one might well ask, is the notion of “nature” or “natural” that gives these theories their title? The answer to this question is this: initially, natural law theories involved more than the simple claim that the legal order was to be understood as essentially connected with the moral order; also involved was a certain claim about the nature of the moral order itself. - Nature had fixed a set of ends or purposes (an essence) for human beings in the natural order of things. (In the Christian view, God had implanted these essential purposes in nature) - To view nature and the place of humans in it in terms of ends, goals, or purposes is called teleological worldview - The modern mind finds it difficult to accept tat people have ends or purposes other than those they have set or accepted for themselves. - Suppose that I do have a purpose set by God or nature (whatever that might mean). By what logic does it follow that I am ethically required to act in accord with that purpose? It might be imprudent (if God is vengeful) to act contrary to the plans - Indeed, on one plausible view, the very best achievements of human beings result when they learn in a sense to overcome nature (e.g., by being less violent than they are naturally inclined to be) - To use the language of G.E. Moore, it is always an open question, what morally ought to be given any statement of what is naturally done or factually the case - For all these reasons, it is not surprising that natural law ethical theory has often provoked impatience and even contempt from its critics - Natural law is at the disposal of everyone. The ideology does not exist that cannot be defended by an appeal to the law of nature - Classical natural law theory can be understood as a commitment to the following two claims: (1) Mo
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