Natural law

Theory of basis of human law.

There are natural laws, either in the sense of being embedded in the essence of human society or human nature, or as being expressed through its development over time.

The justification for ‘manufactured’ law lies in its expression of natural law, and the task of the legislator is thus to express natural law in state law.

Source:
David Miller et al., eds, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford, 1987)

Natural law[1] (Latin: ius naturalelex naturalis) is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be deduced and applied independent of positive law (the enacted laws of a state or society).[2] According to natural law theory, all people have inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by “God, nature, or reason”.[3] Natural law theory can also refer to “theories of ethics, theories of politics, theories of civil law, and theories of religious morality”.[4]

Natural law has roots in Western philosophy. In the Western tradition it was anticipated by the Pre-Socratics, for example in their search for principles that governed the cosmos and human beings. The concept of natural law was documented in ancient Greek philosophy, including Aristotle,[5] and was referred to in ancient Roman philosophy by Cicero. References to it are also to be found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and were later expounded upon in the Middle Ages by Christian philosophers such as Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The School of Salamanca made notable contributions during the Renaissance.

Modern natural law theories were greatly developed in the Age of Enlightenment, combining inspiration from Roman law with philosophies like social contract theory. It was used in challenging theory of the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government—and thus legal rights—in the form of classical republicanism. In the early decades of the 21st century, the concept of natural law is closely related to the concept of natural rights. Indeed, many philosophers, jurists and scholars use natural law synonymously with natural rights (Latin: ius naturale), or natural justice,[6] though others distinguish between natural law and natural right.[7]

Because of the intersection between natural law and natural rights, natural law has been claimed or attributed as a key component in the Declaration of Independence (1776) of the United States, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) of France, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) of the United Nations, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (1953) of the Council of Europe

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