Natural Law Theory

Natural Law Theory
In attempting to​ garner an​ understanding of​ the​ nature of​ law,​ early legal philosophers and academics formulated what has come to​ be known as​ the​ natural law theory,​ and has become a​ literal cornerstone of​ the​ development of​ modern legal thinking .​
Although somewhat limited in​ modern jurisprudential thinking,​ natural law has had a​ tremendous impact on​ our understanding of​ what law means in​ society as​ a​ baseline from which to​ build more complex theories .​
In this article,​ we​ will look at​ some of​ the​ major propositions underpinning the​ concept of​ natural law,​ and the​ corresponding strengths and weaknesses of​ this fundamental interpretation of​ the​ legal function.
Natural law starts with the​ basic premise that the​ law is​ driven by morality,​ and consequently is​ affected by it .​
With a​ history extending back to​ Aristotle and other early philosophers,​ the​ natural law theory has traditionally linked the​ law with religion and an​ innate sense of​ justice,​ rather than the​ more pragmatic approaches of​ some other theories .​
Although this might sound rather basic,​ the​ principals have been developed and refined through academic debate for centuries ultimately leading to​ a​ far more sophisticated theory of​ the​ nature of​ law .​
the​ idea that all law is​ subject to​ an​ unwritten code of​ morality is​ fundamental to​ natural law .​
This also throws up some potential problems in​ terms of​ civil regulation .​
Certain natural law theorists suggest that for a​ law to​ be binding on​ the​ citizen,​ it​ must conform to​ this sense of​ natural justice .​
However,​ there is​ clearly no definitive objective concept of​ morality,​ which casts doubt over this principle .​
Additionally,​ the​ prospect that a​ law may be disregarded in​ favour of​ some higher sense of​ morality doesn't conform in​ reality,​ considering the​ potential implications of​ consistently disregarding law on​ the​ grounds of​ the​ subjective concept of​ justice .​

Furthermore on​ this primitive understanding of​ natural law,​ the​ citizen in​ contravention to​ the​ laws of​ his state,​ could attempt to​ excuse his actions through a​ justification of​ 'immoral' laws .​
This would also create a​ state of​ disorder,​ given the​ natural variation of​ personal opinions,​ which would ultimately render society unworkable .​
For this reason,​ the​ natural law scheme has failed to​ garner modern academic acceptance,​ of​ course with a​ few exceptions.
Natural law has been proposed as​ a​ consideration in​ trying war criminals,​ on​ the​ basis of​ the​ retrospectivity principle,​ i.e .​
no man can be tried for a​ crime that was not a​ crime when he committed it .​
Many war criminals are merely cogs in​ the​ machine of​ a​ legal regime,​ which ultimately permits their actions,​ however unjustifiable morally .​
Natural law theories give a​ basis for challenge on​ these grounds,​ whilst avoiding the​ awkward question of​ direct legal contravention,​ which ultimately works to​ serve justice .​
In this sense,​ it​ is​ perhaps useful as​ a​ canon of​ interpretation and in​ determining just and equitable outcomes in​ 'difficult' cases .​
However,​ as​ a​ wider legal concept,​ natural law and the​ proposed intersection between law and morality seems too awkward to​ reconcile with considered academic legal understandings .​
Having said that,​ natural law has provided an​ excellent starting position for further advanced argumentation,​ and has provided a​ platform for critique that has been essential to​ the​ development of​ the​ more sophisticated ideas held in​ regard in​ this modern day.

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