Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group O/Natural Law
Thomas Aquinas' Approach to Natural Law Theory
The principle theorist for natural law is Thomas Aquinas, and the essential point is that true laws are derived from a higher non-human source, and they must be followed for reasons of justice, fairness and morality. For Thomas Aquinas law is derived from God, but natural law theory is not limited to this it can come from reason or nature. Natural law theory is based on morality, the idea is that because these laws come from outside the human realm these ideas are immutable and unchanging and therefore always retain their morality. This does not mean that man does not play a role in the shaping of this law. It takes the human reasoning process to interpret and implement the external law. While there is a potential to have these external laws corrupted by humans, Natural Law theorists feel that we are rational beings that always strive for the common good. Therefore, when implementing these external laws we set out reasoned steps that will allow us to reach the common good, even if this involves threats of force or punishment. The common good according to Natural law theorists is happiness, this is not the happiness of each individual but the happiness of society . Law must then direct us to achieve this common good by informing us of what we must do in order to achieve happiness. If a law does not lay out the correct steps it cannot achieve the common good, and it is no law at all and need not be followed. Another requirement is that the law be made by a valid law maker. Similarly how the law comes from the natural world, so too do relationships. Some naturally will rule and some are naturally ruled. Those who rule know what is in the interest of the common good and will therefore enact laws to pursue such things. Sometimes this calls for punishment and this is okay, because it creates obedience that will continue to lead people to the common good. The final condition is that the law be promulgated, without this people would not know of the practical steps needed to reach the common good. Therefore because Natural law theorist believe in role of the law maker and the requirement of promulgation they prefer legislation over judge made law. Legislators are better situated to abide by these requirements. Judges still play an important role. If the written law does not strive for the common good, judges may adapt that law to ensure it creates the practical steps necessary. Otherwise, they are not to interfere with written law.