Natural Law Theory | Natural Law Theory

The Natural Law Theory or theory of natural law is a theory that goes back to the time of the Greeks and to great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle.

Natural law theory is defined as the law that states that humans have certain innate laws predestined for them, that let them determine what is right and what is wrong. (Bainton 174) This theory was adapted by religious philosophers to fit the Christian religion. (Berkhof 114) However, it was not exactly the same as the original. Classical thinkers were the first to define natural law .

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The Natural Law theory for the Greeks

Heraclitus , in the 6th century BC, specifies one of the components by saying, “all human laws are fed by one, divine”. This meant that a divine power determined logic and gave it to all human beings. This definition puts this law in direct conflict with positive laws. Aristotle elaborated on the natural world in relation to the law. He said that a natural law was one that had the same validity for each and every situation. (Berkhof 268) An example of this would be that a man contemplating the murder would see that he was wrong with his nature. Your reason would tell you that killing another was unnatural, and therefore wrong.

Natural Law and Stoicism

Cicero tries to determine what the current law encompassed and he came up with the theory of stoicism. Stoicism is an interpretation of natural law that states that a single person is a part of the universe that was created and is governed by rational divine power. To live rationally and with virtue, according to the Stoics, it was necessary to follow nature and reason. Thus, they considered emotion and passion irrational, and therefore unnatural. For the Stoics, the wise man would be the one who excluded emotion and passion from his decision-making process. (Bainton 21-22)

Theory of Natural Law for São Tomás de Aquino

The great Christian philosophers saw the theory of natural law and realized that it was compatible with their religion. Probably the most famous of them was São Tomás de Aquino .

St. Thomas Aquinas declared in his Summa Theologica that God gave man the ability to determine the difference between right and wrong by the “Eternal Law” . This law gave all beings a tendency to do what was good or natural. He went on to say that in doing what was right, each being was, in fact, using divine reason.

The natural law , according to Aquinas , was participation in the eternal law, doing what was right. (Comptons) Marriage and procreation, for example, are natural to all beings. The desire to marry and raise offspring is an innate instinct given by God. The natural law , the secular Christian both states that all human beings act or should act in certain ways and to respect certain rules, and they were predestined for a divine power. Christian thinkers, led by St. Thomas Aquinas, only added that divine power was God and that, in doing what was right, we would be using divine reason.

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