Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group R/Natural Law
Overview of Natural Law:
Natural law is a theory based on the notion that law is not man-made, but comes from a higher source or divine source. This source might be, for Aquinas, God himself, but it can also arise from such superior sources as nature itself, or logic and reasoning. For our purposes, God will be our source.
Legitimacy of Laws:
Legitimate laws must, in order to be valid, be derived from this superior source. The laws themselves are immutable and constant, only their interpretation by humans is subject to change. Further, these laws, according to Aquinas, must be obeyed because of their higher nature and despite the fallibility of man, we have the reason to ascertain that these laws exist and to incorporate them into our society. Aquinas himself defines the essence of law as being “…nothing else than ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”
Source of the Law:
As opposed to the unadulterated eternal laws of God and/or nature, natural law in this sense is that law as interpreted by human rationality and is the product of the rational, correct reasoning of man. Man is not merely a receiver of law, but an actor and interpreter in finding the truths to implement natural law from the higher source into the world of man with the aim of enacting these laws.
The laws applied in this way are not a man-made artifact despite human interpretation. Man’s nature and will is inclined towards a common good that benefits everyone (and God). The common good in the mind of Aquinas is not necessarily the aggregated good of the individual, but rather the society as a whole with a mind towards the end goal intended—happiness for all.
Aquinas proposed four factors that were required for a valid law to be considered such under this theory: i) the law must be set towards the common good, ii) it must follow practical reason and promote steps towards the common good, iii) must be made by a valid lawmaker in the community who has this position because of the natural law, and iv) the law must be promulgated and declared as unknown laws cannot promote obedience and humility.