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Natural Law Theory: With A Focus On The Views Of Cicero And Locke.

1475 words - 6 pages

The term 'natural law' is ambiguous in meaning, but it can essentially be defined as the principles of human conduct. Natural law derives from the nature of man and the world, just as physical law derives from the nature of space, time, and matter. According to natural law ethical theory, the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings. The idea of a natural right order to which all things, including human beings, should conform is one of the most ancient and universal notions. It has been a major principle in religious and philosophic systems since the classical era to modern day where it was endorsed by great theorists such as Marcus Tullius Cicero and John Locke.
According to philosophers such as Cicero, this theory of natural law is applicable to all things human and non-human. Atoms, weather, plants, etc. all abide by nature's rules. Man, however, neglects to obey these laws, as if we were given immunity through some sort of intrinsic authority. We find the doctrine of the natural moral law mostly in western society. It is the source of moral standards, the basis of moral judgments, and the measure of justice in the man-made laws of the state. If the law of the state runs counter to the precepts of the natural law, it should be considered unjust. The first principle of natural law is to sustain the general goodness found in nature, as well as respecting the natural rights of all living things, especially your fellow man. However, what is regarded as promoting the general goodness and what is contrary varies from region to region, culture to culture, religion to religion and so on. Because morality is so objective, a concrete set of rules is not possible, making these natural laws subjective only to moral norms. Moral standards are derived from the nature of the world and the nature of man. Cicero gives his definition of natural law in Book I of De Officiis, "Law in the proper sense is right reason in harmony with nature. It is spread through the whole human community, unchanging and eternal, calling people to their duty by its commands and deterring them from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. When it addresses a good man, its commands and prohibitions are never in vain; but these same commands and prohibitions have no effect on the wicked. This law cannot be countermanded, nor can it be in any way amended, nor can it be totally rescinded. We cannot be exempted from this law by any decree of the Senate or the people; nor do we need anyone else to expound or explain it. There will not be one such law in Rome and another in Athens, one now and another in the future, but all peoples at all times will be embraced by a single and eternal and unchangeable law; and there will be, as it were, one lord and master of us all - the God who is the author, proposer, and interpreter of that law. Whoever refuses to obey it will be turning his back on himself. Because he has denied his...

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