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Natural Law = ? January 6, 2013

Posted by cantueso in history, law, philosophy.
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greek-temple-drawing

It is a very old concept and so it has become controversial.

The idea dates back to the Greeks and the Jews and later the Romans who formulated a basic belief in reason and legislation.

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cathedral-bookl

Next came the Christians saying that God who gave us life also gave us reason to understand what he or our conscience is telling us.

Reason was considered a defining part of man’s “nature”, and that is why the law is called “natural”. –

!!! !!  It follows that natural law is not the same as the laws of nature. It is bad terminology, but old and cannot be changed. The two aren’t even variants of the same thing, but opposites. The “laws of nature” are observations ascertained by experiment. “Natural law” is a mental construct subject to perpetual debate.

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westminster-diliff

The question is : where does the strength or the relevance of, for instance, the criminal code or the tax law come from?

Some would say: a law is strong if it is in line with what most people “naturally” consider right.

Others would say: a law is strong because it is backed by the State or by a ruler who is powerful enough to punish offenders.

In the West the debates on both of these positions have been going on for centuries. –

The same can be said of those “rights” that have been claimed for women or for all humans and also for (some) animals. Where would those “rights” come from?

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Ratzinger on Natural Law:

He says that Darwinism has  “blunted” the Catholic concept of Natural Law. As a result now only its latest offspring  is still around as  a notion of “Human Rights”, but  globally not acceptable either.

According to Ratzinger, natural law is based on a concept of nature “that went under with the victory of the theory of evolution.”

“…. At least this is what we are being told by the scientists, and what seems to us at present almost incontrovertible. “

So, the last remaining element of natural law is the notion of  “human rights”, a right which is supposedly all based on reason.
The problem is that both Christianity and modern rationality see themselves as universally valid.
According to the Cardinal, this view has been giving rise to tensions all over the world.

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The Ratzinger Habermas Debate at http://espliego.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/ratzinger-habermas-debate/

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The Westminster palace photo is by Diliff for Wikipedia, and the cathedral drawing is the cover of the Macauley book.

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Comments»

1. Susan McGovern - February 5, 2008

These are cagey suppositions based on lots of bull. There is no natural law, except that predators survive their victims. At this point in time man seems to be the most successful predator. You might not want to learn from man’s chaotic history, but Nature does not care at all. And the fact is that God does not punish a predator. People do — if they can.

Mrs Greensleeves - May 6, 2009

I believe you misunderstand the term, as indeed it is misleading. “Natural law” according to this theory is supposed to be “natural” if it is in line with reason, and reason (again according to this theory) is supposed to be common to all humans.

2. Carl D'Agostino - January 4, 2012

A complicated philosophic loop which words and discussion complicate instead of leading to understanding. The laws of nature are empirical. Natural law seems based on an ethical and spiritual foundation. However, natural law may be quite different from civilization to civilization.

3. A.S.Chartwell - January 4, 2012

In what sense has (quote from your post) “Darwinisim blunted the Catholic concept of Natural Law”?
Or would you know where Ratzinger said this?

4. cantueso - January 4, 2012

To Carl D’Agostino:
You say that “natural law seems to be based on ..” but what is it?
The interest is in how it is generated or created, but I do not see the loop.
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To A.S.Chartwell:
It is from my own Ratzinger Habermas debate summary at http://espliego.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/ratzinger-habermas-debate/.
Prevailing Darwinism put an end to the idea that nature is the work of the supreme intelligence. For Ratzi this would mean that the concept of natural law has “capsized”.

According to Wikipedia, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle “posited” the existence of natural justice or natural right. Next Wikipedia mentions the Stoics and then Cicero, and then already Saint Paul followed by a few lesser names, and then comes Aquinas who defines natural law as the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law.

5. pendrive9 - January 4, 2012

@ Chartwell:
What follows is not clearly marked as a Ratzinger quote, but seems to be presented as such.

“The idea of the natural law presupposed a concept of nature in which nature and reason overlap, since nature itself is rational. With the victory of the theory of evolution, this view of nature has capsized: nowadays, we think that nature as such is not rational, even if there is rational behavior in nature.”

From “Is Natural Law Extinct?”

http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2010/is-natural-law-extinct.html


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